Monday, March 29, 2010

Video: Memphis Tennessee becomes US hunger capital

The city of Memphis, Tennessee has the poor distinction of being the hungriest part of America. A new Gallup survey found that a greater percentage of those in Memphis can not afford to buy food than anywhere else in the US.

First, from McClatchy Newspapers this video tells the story of a couple of Memphis residents who have fallen on hard times.

Now some of the facts and factors behind Memphis' new distinction from McClatchy Newspapers reporter Shashank Bengali.

As more and more Americans struggle to pay their bills, a recent survey co-sponsored by Gallup found that 26 percent of people in greater Memphis couldn't afford to buy the food their families needed at some point over the previous 12 months, the highest rate in the nation.

The nationwide recession has compounded the region's economic woes, which experts say stem from the steady decline of family farms, a shortage of skilled workers and few major employers. Slammed with job losses, many middle-class families such as the Caleses find themselves forced to choose whether to pay their house, car, utilities and medical bills — or buy groceries.

"We have seen need grow at certain times, but we have never seen a national economy like this," said Susan Sanford, who's headed the Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis for the past two decades. "And we have never seen so many middle-class people lose their jobs and have to depend on emergency food assistance."

Last year, some 186,500 people in 31 Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee counties that surround Memphis relied on agencies for their next meals, a 28 percent increase from four years ago, the food bank reported. Paradoxically, the region also suffers from high rates of obesity, which experts say is the result of families eating cheaper and less nutritious food.

"It's no surprise that this is a very poor area," Sanford said. "But I never would have expected to be No. 1 in food insecurity in the entire country."

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