20071119 food bank bush
President Bush pushes a cart as volunteers load groceries during his visit to the Central Virginia Food Bank Nov. 19, 2007 in Richmond, Va. - 


KAI RYSSDAL: Donations to food banks are down as well. More than 12 million households in this country had trouble getting enough food last year. That's only slightly more than went hungry in 2005, but food banks across the country are still struggling.

Marketplace's Alisa Roth explains why.

ALISA ROTH: Every week, around 1,400 families get groceries from the Yorkville Common Pantry in Manhattan.

CAROL ANN JOHNS: It's a combination of cereal, some canned products such as vegetables, fruit, some type of a protein, whether it's beans, peanut butter.

Carol Ann Johns directs the pantry. She says it gets some food from the federal emergency food supply. It also relies on donations from area churches, synagogues and schools. Since April, the number of people coming to Yorkville for help has gone up by a third. But there's no extra food coming in. Johns says the pantry, which also runs a soup kitchen, won't turn people away.

JOHNS: So what we ultimately have done is to try to kind of spread what we have going further to a larger number of people.

Hunger activists say more people are turning to places like Yorkville because food stamps and other benefits aren't enough to feed them all month long. And high rents and utility prices mean some people are having to choose between paying the electric bill and eating supper. Anya Duggan is with the Food Bank for New York City. It's an umbrella organization for pantries and soup kitchens around the five boroughs.

ANYA DUGGAN: We're seeing a shortage of federally-funded emergency food coming into the emergency food system, and that's happening throughout the country.

The Farm Bill dictates both food stamp benefits and the emergency food supply. For now, the bill is stuck in the Senate. Meanwhile, Duggan says, that drop in federal help means private donations make up a growing proportion of food aid across the country. If those donations don't pick up, she says, there'll be a lot of hungry families this winter.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.