Food banks supported by churches and others are seeing an increase in numbers of clients as the cost of food and fuel rises. Rationing has been seen in some stores across the United States. Food riots are beginning to occur around the world, Congress is working on a new farm bill, churches are trying to fill the gap - will we as Christians rise to the challenge?
The New York Sun reports on rationing occurring in the United States:
"Due to the limited availability of rice, we are limiting rice purchases based on your prior purchasing history," a sign (at Costco) above the dwindling supply said.
Shoppers said the limits had been in place for a few days, and that rice supplies had been spotty for a few weeks. A store manager referred questions to officials at Costco headquarters near Seattle, who did not return calls or e-mail messages yesterday.
An employee at the Costco store in Queens said there were no restrictions on rice buying, but limits were being imposed on purchases of oil and flour. Internet postings attributed some of the shortage at the retail level to bakery owners who flocked to warehouse stores when the price of flour from commercial suppliers doubled.
NPR reports from the head of the UN food program:
The head of the U.N. World Food Program says large-scale international action is needed to address an immediate food emergency that threatens to destabilize developing nations.
Speaking at a summit in London on Tuesday, Josette Sheeran said growing hunger is a threat to the political and economic stability of poor nations, with food riots threatening democratically elected governments.
Sheeran's remarks echoed those of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who pledged more than $100 million to the World Food Program and said the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations need to work together to tackle the food crisis.
At the local church food pantry this news is supported by the increasing numbers of working people coming for assistance. As congress works on a new Farm Bill reports of empty shelves show the difficulties:
Across the country, depleted shelves are a common sight at food pantries, where advocates say the supply of donated items hasn't kept pace with demand during the recent economic downturn.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has seen it firsthand in Hocking County in the rural southeast part of the state.
"They'll show up at 3:30 in the morning. The food pantry at the church opens at 8 a.m.," Brown says. "By 12:30, literally 2,000 people come in for food once a month and they get food for about three weeks. It doesn't get them through the month."
Read the report here.
In Utah, the Deseret News reports:
The Utah Food Bank's 2-1-1 hotline this year has taken double the calls for food assistance than it did in the first quarter of 2007. Crossroads Urban Center served 44 percent more families last month than it did the same time a year ago. For Hildegarde's Pantry, a ministry of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, that number increased nearly 50 percent.
In Detroit Lakes,Minnesota the DL-Online News reports how St. Luke's Episcopal Church and others in the MAC/NAPS program are feeling the shortages:
Have you ever truly felt hungry and didn’t know what or where you were going to find something to feed yourself or your family?
With your cupboards and refrigerator empty, what would you do? I have never experienced this, but I know there is hunger all over the world. My name is Karla Mitchell and until I took my present position as the program coordinator of MAC/NAPS, I didn’t realize how prevalent hunger is right here in our community.
The program mentioned is a government program called Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or CSFP. It is a program that locally is known as Mothers And Children (MAC) and Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS). The program provides a monthly box of basic food items enough to prepare many meals throughout the month.
These boxes of food are packaged at Second Harvest Heartland in the metro area and shipped to Detroit Lakes for local distribution. Presently, we serve over 300 people a month in our community, and we could serve many more as the need is great.
However, this program is at risk of being cut at the federal level. This program is vital to our community.
MAC/NAPS distribution takes place the first part of each month out of St. Lukes Episcopal Church in Detroit Lakes. A nutrition educator is on site each month to demonstrate how to prepare and make efficient use of the foods as well as share recipes and nutrition information.
Read more here
San Francisco Chronicle reports on Haiti and food shortages here.
But perhaps the most devastating impact has been in Haiti, where more than half the population of 9 million lives on less than a $1 a day, and the price of rice has doubled since December. At least seven people were killed recently in food riots.
Haiti is particularly affected because it imports nearly all of its food, including more than 80 percent of its rice. Once-productive farmland has been abandoned as farmers struggle to grow crops in soil devastated by erosion, deforestation, flooding and tropical storms.
In March, many poor Haitians complained of hunger so severe that it felt like their stomachs were being eaten away by bleach or battery acid. In a matter of days, "Clorox hunger" was being talked about in slums and villages across the country.
Christian Science Monitor reports on the plight of food banks in the U.S. here.
Americans are a generous sort but not as much in a weak economy with food prices climbing more than 5 percent a year. Donations to private food banks are off 9 by percent. A CNN poll finds nearly 1 in 3 people already cutting back on food. Hunger, once again, is rising in America.
More on the Farm Bill from the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) and what you can do to respond here.
Episcopal Relief and Development addresses the issue of food security here.