Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 24, 2008: Editorial: Time to pitch in

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From the Journal Sentinel

Posted: June 24, 2008

The crowds that thronged Milwaukee۪s main welfare office Monday and Tuesday in search of vouchers illustrate this certainty: The poor need food, and with the prices of everything escalating, they are having trouble keeping the cupboard full.

Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee, said the frustrations of citizens outside the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center shows the food crisis in Milwaukee is worse than many people think.

“You can’t build a freeway around (poverty) and pretend like you don’t see it,” Tussler said. “We have to address it.”

Milwaukee is the nation’s eighth-poorest city and ranks fourth in the number of children living in poverty, Tussler said. Since January, the number of emergency food pantry visits to the Hunger Task Force has climbed steadily as people look for ways to offset their food bills as the cost of gas and other goods has risen. While food donations to the Hunger Task Force have remained steady, food donations from the government have dropped more than 30% since 2001, she said.

To keep up with the increasing demand, the Hunger Task Force purchases food. The Task Force purchased $3,400 worth for the first five months of 2007. Through May of this year, that number climbed to $92,000, Tussler said.

With school out for the summer, feeding children is a challenge, she noted. Since the government offers food only to children in summer school under age 12, the Task Force provides snacks for those 13 and older. Gina Styer, communications manager of Second Harvest Food Bank of Wisconsin, said rising gas prices are causing long lines wherever food is given away.

“I’m not surprised because I see this all the time. . . . Food stamps are not going as far as before.”

Second Harvest donations were down 1 million pounds, or 15%, from last year through May, Styer said.

It’s a tough job, but the agencies are determined to see that the area’s kids have enough to eat. “I know that no one in the community wants to see a child go hungry,” Tussler said.

The rest of us can help ensure that kids get fed by pitching in with donations. The need is real.

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