"May you and your loved ones be blessed on this Thanksgiving day, and in your gathering may you be ever mindful of the needs of others," said Fr. Snyder. "Let us also give thanks for local Catholic Charities staff who continue to serve our least fortunate brothers and sisters despite increased demand and dwindling resources. By reaching out to the least among us, we all will prosper and enjoy a renewed spirit and recovery."
A recent snapshot survey of local Catholic Charities agencies conducted by Catholic Charities USA reveals sobering details about hunger in America. Across the country, food services are in high demand as agencies are faced with reduced funding and staff layoffs. Food pantries are emptying faster than ever - some agencies are forced to turn people away.
"Our agencies are seeing new faces coming in for assistance. These are clients whose employment has run out, with no job to be found ... people struggling to form a new way to live," said Father Snyder.
Catholic Charities USA remains committed to its Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America by addressing the challenges of hunger, housing, economic security, education/job training, and health, as it leads into its 2010 Centennial year.
Catholic Charities USA's members -- more than 1,700 local Catholic Charities agencies and institutions nationwide -- provide help and create hope for 8.5 million people a year regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds. For almost 300 years, Catholic Charities agencies have worked to reduce poverty by providing a myriad of vital services in their communities, ranging from health care and job training to food and housing.
The Obama Administration launched a new initiative this week encouraging Americans to help fight hunger in their communities. The campaign is called “United We Serve: Feed a Neighbor.” It urges people to donate money to local soup kitchens and food banks and also to volunteer their time and talents. The effort comes amid new government reports that hunger is on the rise in the US. Forty-nine million Americans struggled to put food on the table this past year—that’s an increase of 13 million—and a record number of Americans, 36 million, now receive food stamp assistance.
Joining me with more on all of this is Candy Hill, a senior vice president at Catholic Charities USA. Candy, it seems like this time of year, every year, we hear appeals from groups saying “Oh people are hungry, you need to give.” What makes this year different?
And there’s been some talk of food insecurity, I mean we’re not talking about starving in the streets, but we’re talking about people who are just having a harder time feeding their families?
Older Americans who were raised on stories of the Great Depression and acquired lifelong habits of thrift now find themselves crowding soup kitchens and food pantries in greater numbers for the first time after seeing retirement funds, second jobs and nest eggs wiped out by recession.
The number of seniors living alone who seek help from food pantries in the U.S. increased 81 percent to
"Seniors thought they were OK, but they're not OK," said Virginia Skinner, director of Development at The Association of Arizona Food Banks in Phoenix, citing the downturn in the area's housing market.
"They're of a generation that feels they took care of themselves, and now in these desperate straits they don't want to acknowledge it," said Catholic Charities spokesman Roger Conner. "With seniors and retirees — people that were planning for that period of their life — they are often very proud and very private, and they want no one to know of the difficulties they might be experiencing."