U.S. Charity Accelerating Plans Due to Recession
CHICAGO, March 17, 2009, Reuters — The recession is prompting the leading hunger relief charity in the United States to speed up its current development plan by two years to meet demand for its services.
Feeding America, which changed its name from America's Second Harvest last fall, wants to hit its 2012 target of distributing 2.95 billion pounds of food and serving 30 million Americans by 2010 instead, Chief Executive Vicki Escarra said on Tuesday.
"We are planning on accelerating the five-year plan by two years," she said at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit. "In essence, we plan to get that 1 billion pounds of new food by 2010 just to meet the demand. We don't have a choice."
Feeding America's network of more than 200 U.S. food banks distributed 2.17 billion pounds of food in its 2008 fiscal year, up 2.4 percent from the previous year. It also served 25 million Americans.
Through the first seven months of the 2009 fiscal year, which ends in June, the charity had distributed almost 1.44 billion pounds of food and raised $56.3 million in funds. Escarra said Feeding America will top its 2009 targets by 20 percent and more than 30 percent, respectively.
That success is necessary, Escarra said, because demand is rising along with the unemployment rate.
"We're seeing demand (for services) up across the country north of 30 percent," she said, adding that more than half of the increase were people who had not visited a food bank before.
Feeding America officials pointed to the nearly 32 million Americans on food stamps in December -- or more than one of every 10 Americans -- as the highest rate ever. And unemployment, at 8.1 percent, will only continue to rise in the short term, Escarra said.
Funds and food donated by individuals and corporations like Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Kraft Foods Inc (KFT.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), General Mills Inc (GIS.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Kroger Co (KR.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) are up, Escarra said.