Newly Poor Swell Lines at Food Banks
Feb. 20, 2009, The New York Times — Once a crutch for the most needy, food pantries have responded to the deepening recession by opening their doors to what Rosemary Gilmartin, who runs the Interfaith Food Pantry here, described as “the next layer of people” — a rapidly expanding roster of child-care workers, nurse’s aides, real estate agents and secretaries facing a financial crisis for the first time.
Demand at food banks across the country increased by 30 percent in 2008 from the previous year, according to a survey by Feeding America, which distributes more than two billion pounds of food every year. And instead of their usual drop in customers after the holidays, many pantries in upscale suburbs this year are seeing the opposite.
Here in Morris County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, the Interfaith pantry opened for an extra night last week to accommodate the growing crowds. Among the first-time visitors were Cindy Dreeszen and her husband, who both have steady jobs — his at a movie theater and hers at a government office — with a combined annual income of about $55,000.
But with a 17-month-old son, another baby on the way, and, as Ms. Dreeszen put it, “the cost of everything going up and up,” the couple showed up in search of free groceries.
“I didn’t think we’d even be allowed to come here,” said Ms. Dreeszen, 41, glancing around at the shelves of fruit, whole-wheat pasta and baby food. “This is totally something that I never expected to happen, to have to resort to this.”
In Lake Forest, Ill., a wealthy Chicago suburb, a pantry in an Episcopal church that used to attract people from less affluent towns nearby has lately been flooded with people who have lost jobs. In Greenwich, Conn., a pantry organizer reported a “tremendous” increase in demand for food since December, with out-of-work landscapers and housekeepers as well as real estate professionals who have not made a sale in months filling the line.