As many Missourians wrap up a weekend marked by celebration and plenty, somewhere near 16% of the state's population struggles with food insecurity.
And while hunger is certainly not a new problem, area service organizations say need is up 20 to 30 percent over last year and that collecting enough food for the hungry remains a constant challenge. Frank Finnegan, Executive Director of the St. Louis Area Food Bank, says that the face of hunger has changed over the last year:
"Over the last 15 years, we’ve seen an increase in the working poor. What we’ve seen that’s new this year is the increase of the unemployed. Unemployment is at roughly 10% nationally and about the same here in our local community. On top of the elderly that we’ve been serving, and the working poor that’s been growing, now suddenly you have a whole new population of people that had been working, and many of them contributing to organizations like ours, now they find themselves in lines at the food pantries."
Though the 2010 holiday season has been a successful one in terms of food collection in the area, Greg Koenen of Circle of Concern in Valley Park, MO, called into the show today to say that the holidays are really just the beginning of what promises to be another year of increased need:
“My concern is that we’ve had a very good season, with food drives and so-on. But people tend to forget that we have hungry families in February, March, and April. I’m afraid our problem is going to come next spring. People will think times are a little bit better. They gave to the Boy Scouts in November and Circle of Concern in December and they think the problem is solved. The sad part is, we need a tremendous influx of food almost every day to keep the system going.”
Listen to today’s episode of St. Louis on the Air, for the full conversation about hunger in the St. Louis region. To get involved with any of the organizations you heard on today's show, find them on the web: