Food Pantries: the new normal?

Many Americans are using food banks and pantries as a long –term solution for hunger. Feeding America’s newly released report shows food assistance has become the new normal. 54% of food pantry users visit frequently or month to month.

Monica Leitheiser, the site manager at Rapid City’s Feeding America Food Bank, says from 2008 to 2010 the number of people using their services has increased from 5,000 to 10,000.

“We look back at the statistic and we only have 14% that have never used our services before this year, so that tells you a lot of people are coming month after month,” said Leitheiser.

But the most frequent users are those with SNAP –Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program– benefits; they make up 58 percent of food pantry’s repeat customers.  

“Where as a few months ago your SNAP may have covered you for a month, now it’s not because prices are increasing,” said Betty Field, who uses the pantry to fill in the gap.  “Some of those assistance programs aren’t keeping up with inflation.”

Field has visited the food bank twice helping her to get by. She says she no longer has to choose between buying medication and grocery shopping.

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