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Food Pantries Face Shortages amid Holiday Season

This week, business giants Wal Mart and Con Agra announced significant donations to the nation's food pantries in response to a critical shortage of supplies at food banks across the country this holiday season. Elizabeth Brackett reports on what's being done to help ease the problem.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, food banks under pressure. This week, two big companies — Wal-Mart and ConAgra — announced the donation of 85 truckloads of food to the nation's food pantries. The gifts are badly needed, as food banks face a critical shortage this holiday season.

    NewsHour correspondent Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW-Chicago has our report.

  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT, NewsHour Correspondent:

    The food disappears quickly in this Chicago food pantry, and that's a big problem, says pantry director Deb Ocampo.

  • DEBRA OCAMPO, United Methodist Church Pantry:

    Supplies have gone down to from about two-thirds of what we were actually getting before. Where we were getting seven cases, we're now getting one or two cases of vegetables, same thing with the fruits. We get no fruit at all.

  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT:

    Ocampo says the last few months have been the toughest she has seen.

  • DEBRA OCAMPO:

    From week to week, we worry if, "Are we going to be able to stay open this week? Are we going to be able to feed the people that come in?"

  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT:

    This food pantry on the west side of Chicago, run by the Chicago Christian Industrial League, is asking the same question. After only an hour of giving out food, shelves were nearly bare.

    Vicki Escarra, executive director of America's Second Harvest, estimates that more than 35 million Americans do not have access to enough food to stay healthy.

  • VICKI ESCARRA, America’s Second Harvest:

    This is a really critical time. We have made a call out to all of our major food manufacturers and retailers. We're seeing a 30 percent reduction in Florida, a 40 percent reduction in California in the amount of food that they're bringing in. They're having to turn people away during a really critical time of year.

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