674,000 Residents Go Hungry In Los Angeles County

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HUNDREDS of thousands of people are going hungry in Los Angeles County, California, in the richest state in the richest country in the world.

Demand for assistance from local food banks jumped by 16.4 per cent compared to last year, and 43.9 per cent over the past two years, according to a report released yesterday by the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.

The foodbank provides about 800,000 meals a week to 590 charitable agencies throughout the county.

An estimated 674,000 residents now seek food at pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, compared to 535,000 residents five years ago.

Nearly a third of pantries are forced to turn away hungry clients because they don’t have enough donated food – a shortage estimated at nearly 11 million pounds, the report said.

According to the report, in Los Angeles County, 655,100 people were unemployed as of July, and nearly 300,000 have been unemployed since late 2007.

According to interviews with people receiving assistance from food banks, other people who have jobs are working reduced hours.

Michael Flood, president and chief executive officer of the food bank, said: ‘Hundreds of thousands of families in Los Angeles County, including many families who never imagined they would need food assistance, are either suffering from hunger or at risk of going hungry.

‘We’re distributing more food to local pantries than ever before, yet it’s still not enough to keep pace with the growing need in the community.

‘I’ve been doing this work for 16 years, and this is definitely the most worrisome time.’

‘As this recession continues, we are seeing a record number of applications for the Food Stamp Programme,’ said Jacob Aguilar, assistant director of program and policy for the county Department of Public Social Services.’

He added: ‘We are encouraging everyone that needs assistance and qualifies to apply for this federal benefit.

‘We want to make sure that basic food needs are being met for as many families and individuals as possible.’

The report, ‘Hunger in Los Angeles County 2006,’ was released on National Hunger Awareness Day and follows one issued in 2001. It was based on face-to-face interviews with clients and emergency food pantry volunteers and staff.

• 2nd News Story

MOZAMBIQUE FOOD RIOTS RAGE

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization yesterday called a special meeting of policy makers for 24 September to discuss the recent rise in global food prices.

The announcement came after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin extended the country’s ban on grain exports on Thursday and food riots in the Mozambique capital, Maputo.

The UN agency said: ‘In the past few weeks, global cereal markets experienced a sudden surge in international wheat prices on concerns over wheat shortages.

‘The purpose of holding the meeting is for exporting and importing countries to engage in constructive discussions on appropriate reactions to the current market situation.’

Other key grain producers have also reported shortages, causing the price of wheat to rise more than 50 per cent since the beginning of July.

In Maputo, shops were looted, cars set ablaze, roads barricaded and one of the protesters killed, bringing the death toll to seven after two days of violence prompted by soaring bread prices.

The fatalities allegedly occurred when police opened fire on demonstrators in the capital.

The price of a loaf of bread in Mozambique has risen by 30 per cent over the last year. The Mozambican currency, the metical, has fallen sharply against the South African rand as wheat prices have increased worldwide.

However, the government is planning to raise water and electricity rates by 30 per cent, and increase the price of bread by a further 25 per cent.

The rioting has given rise to fears of a return to the political instability caused by rising food prices in 2008, when Haiti, Kenya and Somalia were particularly hard hit.