Pelosi highlights needs of food banks

May 30, 2008 12:15:57 PM PDT
A different kind of danger is in the spotlight - children going hungry. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is visiting the San Francisco Food Bank to highlight the need for volunteers and donations.

Nancy Pelosi was speaking to local students about a shortage of food in the United States and worldwide. She spent sometime volunteering at the food bank - helping move beans from a bulk bag to smaller individual bags that will feed local families. She is hoping to bring attention to the food crisis.

Even with pallets full of food on the shelves, things are lean at the San Francisco Food Bank.

"These kinds of changes in the food markets make it typically very, very hard for us to acquire more food to feed everyone who needs our help," said Paul Ash, executive director, SF Food Bank.

April saw the biggest jump in food prices in 18 years according to the Labor Department - leaving the food bank with customers who never thought they would have to turn to charity. In the mean time, corporate donations, which make up the bulk of their spoils, are down - mainly dry products canned and packaged food. So to make up for the shortfall, they are working harder to find leftovers.

"Going out and talking to farmers and growers and packers and shippers, and asking them do you have something extra - it needs to edible, it needs to be good food, but its food you can't take to market. And we have been having some luck with that," said Ash.

But Paul Ash said it's not only that people are not giving, it's that there isn't as much food on the market. Corn is going to make ethanol and there has been a rice shortage for months. But the food bank is thinking ahead - workers brought seven truck loads of rice when they first heard that.

"So we are trying to take advantage of things like that, but those are only temporary fixes and as prices go up we are going to be suffering at the same time everyone else is," said Ash.

Some relief is on the way; Congress has just authorized another $100 million in emergency food assistance, but that is not going to be available until October.


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