Times are tough, y’all.
Despite a growing demand, food banks, charities and pantries face a dwindling supply of products to distribute to Houston’s hungry this holiday season.
Food banks in Houston and across the country have less to give away because the federal government is purchasing fewer excess farm products to stabilize agricultural prices. At the same time, high agricultural prices due to a historic drought have exacerbated shortages, experts said.
“We are trying to do a better job and we just get kicked in the shins with this drop,” said Brian Greene, Houston Food Bank president and CEO. “We now have to take two steps back.”
The Houston Food Bank has seen a 38 percent drop in government food donations this year, which Greene said translates to about 5 million meals. Government donations account for about 20 percent of the food issued by the Houston Food Bank, which feeds 137,000 people each week through 500 agencies in southeast Texas.
From 2010 to 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s purchases through the Emergency Food Assistance Program declined 27 percent. As a result, in 2012 at least 181 food banks saw declines in government donations, more than half of which saw drops of 40 percent or more.
This decrease forced food banks to spend millions of dollars purchasing food items, according to data from Feeding America.
National hunger relief advocates say that although the USDA has announced commodity purchases in August and December 2012 that will help relieve some of the shortage, that food will not be delivered until early to mid-2013.
“We live in a shortage world and are doing our best,” said Greene.
He said 66,000 people go hungry in Houston every day despite their best efforts.
Now would be an excellent time to do what you can to help.