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Editorial: Waste not, want not

We report this week on a situation with the Bethlehem Food Pantry that’s not altogether a bad problem to have: the pantry needs more space.

Regular attendees of town functions in Bethlehem may or may not be aware that the Town Board is sitting just a few feet in front of the pantry's stockpile, which is stacked on the auditorium's stage.

It’s nice to see that the pantry is able to keep a good amount of supplies on hand, even in the face of what are some pretty tough times. As we've reported several times in the past few years, even in relatively affluent suburban communities there is an increased need for the services of local food pantries and the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.

In 2009, we reported the number of families served by the Bethlehem Food Pantry had doubled in just two years. In this week’s edition, Velte reports that since that time, demand has tripled. Last year, 1,800 used the services of the pantry, which is roughly 5 percent of the town’s population.

The story is much the same in other places, if not worse. The regional food bank, which operates in 23 counties, many of them rural, delivers food that is distributed to nearly a quarter-million people. The bank reports 70 percent of the families its serves live under the poverty line, but 40 percent have at least one adult working.

Altogether, the organization Feeding America, which coordinates with regional food banks across the nation, figures that in 2010, a shocking one in six Americans (37 million people) drew on the services of a food pantry, and that about 15 percent of America households are “food insecure” — having enough food to go around is not a given.

This is of course much better than what's going on in some parts of the world, such as in Sudan, where hundreds of thousands are threatened by real and actual starvation. But for America, which is truly a land of plenty, these figures are simply incomprehensible. Until you start to think about how much food we throw away.

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