Lean Times For Food Banks Food banks across the country are especially stressed this holiday season, with demands for services up and donations down. At the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., they're struggling to keep up with the calls.
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Lean Times For Food Banks

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Lean Times For Food Banks

Lean Times For Food Banks

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

And food banks across the country are especially stressed this Thanksgiving season with demands for services up, donations down. Workers are trying to cobble(ph) together what they can to help those in need. NPR's Pam Fessler took her recording equipment this week to the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., but they're struggling to keep up with the calls. She has this audio postcard.

Ms. JENNIFER SHAY(ph) (Hunger Lifeline Coordinator, Capital Area Food Bank): My name is Jennifer Shay. I am the hunger lifeline coordinator at the Capital Area Food Bank. People who are in need of food, food assistance, either one time or kind of an ongoing situation, call this number. And we find a food pantry in the area, one of our member agencies that can serve them. And so this week, I'm expecting it to be probably the busiest that I've had all year. Thanksgiving is much busier even than Christmastime here at the food bank.

(Soundbite of telephone operators)

Ms. SHAY: Hello, this is Jenny. Yes. Yes, I can. Do you need food? OK, can you hold for just one moment? Thank you. Oh, I don't know which line she is. Hello, this is Jenny. Hi, good. How are you? Oh, well, the food bank, we don't actually give out food to individuals, but what I can do is give you a referral to another food pantry that can serve you. You don't even need to come in. I can do it over the phone, but can I have you hold for just one moment? Thank you. Hi, are you still there? Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. So you weren't able to pick up the gift card during that time? OK. Well, you've actually - this is definitely the right number, and we will be able to help you. Can you just give me your phone number and I'll call you back when we have a little more information? All right. You're welcome. Thanks, you too. Bye-bye.

Ms. SHAY: People are very grateful and they're very gracious about it, and that makes the whole job a whole lot easier, you know.

Ms. MARIAN PEEL(ph) (Director, Agency Relations, Capital Area Food Bank): My name is Marian Peel. I'm the director of agency relations at Capital Area Food Bank. Since July, the hunger lifeline has just seen an increase in calls that's just, you know, unbelievable. From last year at this time our calls are up 240 percent, and they're different calls. You know, I got a call from a woman that is working in the federal government. And she said, I finally called your number because I don't have any food in my house. And she said other than what she received at work, food that was shared from her co-worker, she had not eaten for the last two days.

We received an email. He and his wife were both lawyers. They were laid off from their jobs, and in his email it said, I have two children. My pride is gone. Please help me. And he actually said he had given money to the food bank. You know, we're now serving people who used to support us, and that's very, very scary.

SIMON: Workers at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C.

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