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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Heat or Eat? Millions of Americans to Decide Between Food, Utilities

From Tacoma, Washington to Portland, Maine, temperatures dropped below freezing last week, giving Americans their first real taste of winter. Many are already deciding between a trip to warmer climates, or whether to ski in Aspen or Vail this season. But millions of low-income Americans are preparing to make a different kind of choice -- a choice between putting food on the table and keeping their families warm.

The rising cost of utilities and heating oil in the past year has strained many household budgets beyond their breaking point, sending more and more families to seek emergency food assistance from food pantries and soup kitchens. This sudden increase in demand threatens to place a significant strain on food banks and food-rescue organizations, many of which are experiencing declines in food and financial donations.

"Low-income Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet during the cold winter months," says Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of America's Second Harvest -- The Nation's Food Bank Network. "Each year the need grows greater, while the struggle to secure adequate resources increases."

A comprehensive hunger study conducted this year by America's Second Harvest - The Nation's Food Bank Network showed that nearly 42 percent of the households served by its network of food banks and pantries were forced to choose between buying groceries and paying for utilities or heating fuel.

Additionally, among the client households served by the America's Second Harvest Network:

-- 52.4 percent of households with children have had to choose between buying food and paying for utilities or heating fuel.
-- 30.8 percent of households with seniors have had to choose between buying food and paying for utilities or heating fuel.

More than 35 million people in the United States, including nearly 12 million children, are living on the brink of hunger, uncertain where their next meal will come from, Second Harvest says.

From donating food or funds to volunteering at a soup kitchen or writing a letter to a legislator, there are many ways to be a part of the solution to end hunger in America.

To find a food bank or opportunities to combat hunger in your neighborhood, visit or call 800-771-2303.


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