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NYC Food Pantries In Panic Mode During Bad Economy

Thousands Of Additional People Need Assistance But Individual And Corporate Donations Way Down

Kate Sullivan NEW YORK (CBS) - This is the time of the year when area food banks and soup kitchens typically raise the bulk of their donations, but with the economy the way it is, donations are down while the need is up.

One look at the shelves at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Campaign Against Hunter and you know what's going on.

"Bed-Stuy against hunger is the largest food pantry in Brooklyn. In addition to giving them food we also address social services," said Rev. Melony Samuels, a spokeswoman for the campaign.

A person in need is a client at the pantry. They are interviewed for help with health related issues, job placement, housing, and then they are allowed to get fresh food to take home to their families.

"We have seen more people than we have seen in the last 10 years," says Samuels.

The holiday season is typically when donations stream in, making much of their work possible. Samuels said she has never seen things this bad.

"For the last three to four months our numbers have jumped by the thousands. Normally we would serve 6,000. Now [we serve] 8,000," she says.

Mark Dunlea, the assistant manager for the Hunger Action Network of New York State, said the state has seen a dramatic and unprecedented upsurge in the demand for emergency food in the past six months.

One food bank in Albany saw the number of people seeking a meal through their breakfast program more than double from 65 people fed daily in 2007 to 140 in 2008.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported earlier this month 691,000 children went hungry across the country some time in 2007 -- before this year's economic downturn.

Here in New York City, orporate sponsorship to the food bank and City Harvest is dwindling. That, coupled with private donations being down too, make officials for non-profits like the pantry begin to panic even before the Thanksgiving holiday.

"Last week in one day we took in 70 new families," says Samuels.

In 2007, 1 in 5 children relied on the food bank or soup kitchens for food. With the current economic crisis, Samuels is very uncertain about the future.

"Based on what we are hearing it is very dim. People are leery to donate because they don't know what's going to happen to them," she says.

And that's certainly not good news just days before Thanksgiving. If you would like more information about the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against hunger or to make a donation and help avoid a potential crisis, click here.

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