Low wages are a big factor in the increased demand for emergency food assistance.
Low wages are a big factor in the increased demand for emergency food assistance. - 
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Kai Ryssdal: There's fresh evidence today that the recession is making it harder for Americans to put food on the table. A study released this morning shows 37 million people get emergency food assistance from soup kitchens and food banks every year in this country. That is one in every eight Americans.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler has the details.

JEFF TYLER: Rising unemployment has pushed the number of households facing hunger up by more than 54 percent in the last four years. The study comes from Feeding America, a national network of food banks.

Spokesman Ross Fraser says researchers interviewed 61,000 people seeking assistance.

ROSS Fraser: Many of them said that they have to sit down and look at their expenses each month and say, "Am I going to pay my rent, or am I going to feed my family? Am I going to keep the heat on, or am I going to feed my family?"

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt directs the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks.

LISA HAMLER-Fugitt: The demand for food assistance continues to grow, day over day, week over week, and month after month.

Fugitt says that, similar to other states, food banks in Ohio are cutting back -- for lack of funding.

Fugitt: Some are reducing the number of times that families and individuals can seek assistance from them. They're lightening the bag. Where once they were giving a five-day supply, they've had to reduce that to a three-day supply.

That's especially hard on the $14 million children in this country without enough to eat. Again, Ross Fraser.

Fraser: A child who is going without food today is at risk of physical and mental impairment. Their brains don't develop normally. So they become an adult who either can't work, or can work only in a minimal capacity.

He says the consequences of child malnutrition will create a drag on the economy long after this recession has ended.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

Follow Jeff Tyler at @JeffMarketplace