Monday, December 17, 2007

More poverty means more food donations needed

from The Lynchburg News and Advance

By Dave Thompson

Supply is down and demand is up. Economics dictates that this is a good situation for the seller, and a bad one for the buyer.

But when the good being offered is free and as critical as food, low supply creates a bad situation.

“A lot of the areas surrounding Lynchburg and in Lynchburg … have a higher percentage of poverty than the state average,” said Ruth Jones, with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank Network.

“This is one area where we’re really focusing to try to help more people.”

According to Jones, the demand for food has jumped 56 percent between the months of July and November since 2006.

She said that Campbell County and Lynchburg could be the two most critical areas for food distribution.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Lynchburg’s poverty rate is 15.9 percent, compared to the state average of 9.5 percent.

The counties of Appomattox, Amherst, Campbell and Nelson also have rates higher than the average. Bedford County’s rate is 7.7 percent.

Jones said that the deficiency is compounded by people who unexpectedly hit hard times, but aren’t necessarily living below the poverty level.

“A lot of people are one crisis away from a situation where they need help ... so this is a situation that’s not just about, you know, the poorest of the poor.”

Another difficulty for the food bank is the decline in donations from the United States Department of Agriculture.

In 2004, the food bank received more than 4 million pounds of donations from the USDA. In 2006, the number dropped to just over 1 million. From the beginning of 2007 to date, the food bank has only received 570,000 pounds, with no more expected until January.

Fortunately, Jones said, a bill currently in the U.S. Senate would strengthen the relationship between the USDA and food banks across the country.

Lynchburg Branch Manager Kristi West said that the demand increase during the holiday season is typical.

“This year it’s just been on a steady incline. Everything else has gone up. The food’s gone up, the utilities have gone up, the gas has gone up.”

“We’ve just been hit hard in Lynchburg,” she said, “and I think that’s affected not only the increase in people needing food, but also the decrease in people giving to help us out, too, because they’re having their own struggles at home.”

But the food bank still needs donations, and Jones encouraged anyone with the money to spend or the food to donate to consider helping out.

“First of all we want to reach more people and feed them, and then second of all we need more support out of the Lynchburg area as a whole in order to do that,” she said.

No comments: