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The Herald News - Make Mom Proud: Donate Food

Op-Ed

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Date:
Location: Fall River, MA


The Herald News - Make Mom Proud: Donate Food

By Sen. John Kerry and Paul Knarr

Anyone who goes shopping these days knows that food prices are going through the roof. What a lot of us don't realize, though, is that a crunch for families struggling to pay for groceries means a crisis for the food banks that feed the hungry.

That's why today, the day before Mother's Day, it's more important than ever that we support the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Helping out is easy: All you have to do is put non-perishable food items next to your mailbox this morning, and a Post Office employee will carry them to your local food bank.

The kind of items they're looking for are canned meats, fish, soup, juice, pasta, vegetables, cereal and rice. Unfortunately, they can't accept items in glass containers or perishable items, like milk, eggs or anything that spoils quickly.

A couple of months ago, a number of Massachusetts veterans banded together to help the Bristol County Veterans Association restock their pantry. They had run extremely low on food and we were reminded just how much they rely on the letter carrier's food drive.

Helping out our food pantries is more important this year than it's been in a long time. To paraphrase an old saying, when grocery shoppers get a cold, food banks get the flu. And this year, things aren't looking good. Rising food prices lead to increased demand, decreased donations and increased operating costs — a lethal threesome that makes tough times even tougher.

That's where we find ourselves today. Groceries are increasingly expensive: According to The Greater Boston Food Bank, the price of spaghetti is up 63 percent from a year ago. Canned peaches are up 57 percent. Peanut butter is up 19 percent. Overall, the cost of food at home is up 18 percent since January 2003.

So it's no surprise that more and more families struggling to make ends meet are turning to food banks when they can no longer afford their groceries. Food banks are preparing for a 30 percent increase in requests for help. The Greater Boston Food Bank found that more than 95 percent of the agencies it works with have seen an increase in demand.

Meanwhile, donations to food banks have declined by 9 percent, 52 percent of agencies have run out of food at some time in the past year, and 58 percent reported a drop in donations.

It's also more expensive to operate food pantries. About 82 percent of agencies said they were having difficulty buying protein; 52 percent were struggling to buy vegetables. Consider this: Last year, food banks distributed more than 30,000 turkeys on Thanksgiving. But the wholesale price of a pound of turkey is up 38 percent, and pantries are being asked to help more people when the same dollar buys far less food than it did just one year ago. At the same time, food banks are struggling with the rising food and health costs that all of us face. To quote the president of the Greater Boston Food Bank, which offers 20 million meals to 320,000 people every year, "We're in hard times." That means millions of people, including hundreds of thousands here in Massachusetts, rely on food banks to survive. No one should go hungry because Washington fails to see the urgency of the problem.

From cuts to our nation's nutrition and food assistance programs to the proposals to limit food stamp eligibility, this administration's budget cuts have hurt the most vulnerable at the worst possible time.

When many people think about food shortages, they think of what has been called the "silent tsunami" of the global food shortage that has led to riots everywhere from Cairo, Egypt to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We should be doing all we can to help hungry people everywhere. If you're already helping, thanks for all you've done. Keep it up. If you're not helping yet, there's no time like the present to get started with the food drive today.

John Kerry is a U.S. senator from Massachusetts.
Paul Knarr is a food drive coordinator for Branch 51 of the U.S. Postal Service.


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