New Hampshire Union-Leader, May 19, 2008: The poor are getting desperate for food — right in NH

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New Hampshire Food Bank

PEOPLE IN New Hampshire are going hungry, and who they are may surprise you. They’re our friends, our neighbors, our relatives — people working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Across the state and throughout the country, rising food prices are having an impact. Nowhere has this been clearer than here at the New Hampshire Food Bank, where requests for food are already up more than 46 percent over last year.

As the only food bank in the state, we serve more than 350 agencies statewide, from soup kitchens and after-school programs to community centers and food pantries. We continue to see the effects of hunger and food prices firsthand.

After years of moderate food price inflation (2 to 3 percent per year), the overall prices for grocery stores rose by an alarming 5 percent last year. This is partly due to a ripple effect from the rising costs of fuel, transportation and more corn products being diverted to ethanol production. The December to December price increases for certain sectors show some disturbing trends. Cereals and bakery items rose by 5.6 percent, poultry by 6.3 percent, dairy by 13.4 percent, and eggs by 32.6 percent. These facts all came from a recent publication by America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s network of food banks.

For those who live near or below the poverty level, the rising cost of food can have a devastating effect. Food stamps and WIC programs are buying less, and many times these families are already stretched to the limit and cannot afford an increased grocery bill.

As more of our neighbors turn to their local food pantries and agencies, the demand for food from the Food Bank grows. But so does the call to action. Everyday I hear from people who want to know what they can do to help.

With that in mind, there is something you can do. You can advocate and educate on the issues of food price increases — the causes and the solutions. If you have a garden, or a plot with a community garden, you can plant an extra row of vegetables to donate to a food pantry. Growing nutritious food to help our neighbors is a great way to feed those who are suffering, and creative solutions like this are taking hold all over the state.

You can also make a personal donation to the Food Bank or to your local food pantries. Right now there is a strong demand for nutritious, canned protein products — canned chicken and tuna, and peanut butter. These are the staples that families need, along with other non-perishable foods. Your financial donation to the Food Bank can make a powerful difference, as we leverage our buying power to turn each dollar into four meals. For a gift of $20, you can provide lunch or dinner to 80 people.

New Hampshire is a generous state, and many of us, if asked by a friend for help, are willing to lend a hand. You can help the families who are being most affected by rising food prices by working with your local food pantry to find solutions to the problem of hunger.

Melanie Gosselin is executive director of the New Hampshire Food Bank, a program of New Hampshire Catholic Charities.

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