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Food for America's famished

With prices skyrocketing for staples such as bread, the poor need more food donations.

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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.

Some food banks and pantries have closed their doors for lack of supplies and because of higher prices for such staples as macaroni and cheese (up 86 percent a carton). Inflation for some basics such as milk, eggs, and bread have risen by double digits over the past year.

Worldwide, food price inflation is being driven by government subsidies for corn ethanol, higher fuel costs to transport food, and more meat eaters who command more farmland for feed grain. And because food costs usually take up more of a poor family's budget, higher prices usually force them to eat less. While the average American family spends about 7 percent of its income on food at home, those at or below the poverty line spend as much as one-third.

Many poor nations have seen food riots and rising instability over "ag-flation" (see related opinion piece on Haiti). The food crisis in the United States has yet to explode into public view – although it's visible in longer lines at soup kitchens and other charities. "Our food bank members across the country have reported tremendous increases in the number of people seeking help to feed their families in the past several months," says Vicki Escarra, head of America's Second Harvest.


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