Fighting the hunger epidemic

The hunger epidemic

"Food is an essential need, but many people think they can do without to provide financial support to other areas," Escarra said. "Most of America doesn't understand the people we touch -- the children who can only eat at school, the shut-ins who can't get out to get food, the single moms and dads working two jobs just to make ends meet. Our role is to bring that message closer to home."

Food Bank of CNY Executive Director Tom Slater agreed. "Our main focus is to help emergency food pantries," he said. "But we're also dedicated to outreach and education. It's meaningful work."

Of the 25 million people that are served by America's Second Harvest, 50 percent are working.

"They have to decide between food and gas or medical expenses," Escarra said.

Thirty-five percent are single mothers. There are 10 million hungry kids and 4 million seniors.

In order to meet the great need, America's Second Harvest partners with corporate sponsors, including grocery chains and food producers, and receives funding from the government. There are over 1 million volunteers involved in the network, working through 50,000 agencies.

"Last year we collected 2 billion pounds of food," Escarra said.

In addition to feeding those who are hungry on a daily basis, America's Second Harvest and local food banks must step up to serve those in emergency situations. For example, most of the food collected last year went to victims of Hurricane Katrina, as did a large percentage of the $100 million raised.

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Those who face hunger every day are most likely to take advantage of the services and programs offered by the Food Bank of CNY. Started in 1985, the organization serves 11 counties and some 20,000 meals a day.

"What was once a temporary, emergency fix is now an established emergency food system that sees more need, not less, every year," Crowley said. "More than 100,000 people in Central New York accessed the emergency food network last year."

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