WASHINGTON -- Food banks across the country are being stretched by a recession-fueled surge in first time users, according to a survey released on Monday.
Feeding America, a nonprofit organization aimed at fighting hunger, surveyed 176 food banks across the country. Of those, 99 percent reported a significant uptick in requests for food, and 98 percent pinned the increase on new visitors to food banks.
The survey dovetails with data from the Agriculture Department, which reported earlier this month that requests for food stamps had increased for the eighth month in a row in June and that a record number of people — more than 35 million — received aid.
Food bank administrators said they fear the increase will mean they won't be able to provide as much aid as they have in the past.
"It's a real worry," said Kitty Schaller, the executive director of MANNA FoodBank in Asheville, N.C. Schaller said high unemployment has fueled unprecedented demand for assistance at her food bank, which serves 16 mostly rural counties in western North Carolina.
"We have had good help, including from the federal government, but in some cases we are worried we can't do as much," Schaller said.
Joan Wadkins, a spokeswoman for Second Harvest Heartland, a food bank network based in Minneapolis, said her organization expanded its storage capacity over the summer and demand continues to increase.
"We are fortunate because donations have continued to be generous," Wadkins said. "But we have a lot of people who need help."
According to the survey, 92 percent of the food banks reported people seeking help had recently lost their jobs.
"What we're seeing is a significant increase in the need for donations, because these organizations are under stress," said Maura Daly, a spokeswoman for Feeding America. "And that, primarily, is being driven by first-time users."
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