News reports from across the country are saying the same thing: More people than ever this year went to food banks and soup kitchens to help feed themselves and their families this month, especially on Thanksgiving. The news was similar in Schenectady County.
It's pretty much across the board. It's what I think you would expect in this type of economy, said Mark Quandt, director of the Regional Food Bank.
"We've never seen anything quite like this. It's a combination of the economy struggling and prices increasing dramatically for basic necessities like fuel and food, and that's really put a tremendous strain on a lot of people," said Quandt.
Quandt said that the Regional Food Pantry, which provides food to other organizations such as soup kitchens, has had a hard time keeping up with the increased demand lately.
"I think that the situation is pretty dire right now. A lot of the organizations are seeing many people for the first time ever -- people who have never been in an emergency situation before are finding themselves in situations where they're seeking help for the first time," said Quandt. "It's hard to keep in stock the real basic foods that most of the programs need. We're working hard at it, we're getting a lot of the fresh food, which is really good, but it's a little more difficult for some of these programs to handle."
He said that more community groups than ever are having food drives, but that these are still challenging, very difficult times.
Gail VanValkenburgh, from the Schenectady Inner City Ministry, which is the largest emergency food pantry in Schenectady County, has also seen a rise in the number of people needing their help.
"Increase is up about 27 percent since we moved here," said VanValkenburgh.
Since November, they have seen 139 new families, as opposed to the average 50 to 60 new families they used to receive each month. VanValkenburgh, like the others, attributes the rise to people losing jobs and the economy.