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Feed the hungry Increase in demand triggers appeal for cash and Food Bank volunteers

It's hard enough not to know where your next meal is coming from. Imagine not knowing where your next 2,000 meals might come from.

That's the problem facing the Food Bank of Western New York and its allied agencies as the demand for food goes up and the number of people in a position to donate goes down.

The national economy is in decline, even by Buffalo standards. With winter coming on, those who know expect the higher cost of heating a home, or driving a car necessary to get to work, to mean that even more families will have trouble feeding their children without some assistance.

Wal-Mart brought in a truckload of help the other day, not only food but a $577,000 check and the promise of a food drive at its area stores. That was a helpful, generous and voluntary gift, and Wal-Mart customers should help by participating in the stores' food drive efforts just before Thanksgiving.

The Food Bank plans on distributing 12 million pounds of food this year, a 12 percent increase over last year, to 204 pantries and soup kitchens in Erie, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Niagara counties.

That's the plan, anyway. And no one can be sure it will be enough. People are out of work. The price of food, the price of gasoline for the car, the price of heating the home or the apartment, are all up. Getting out of the unemployment or underemployment cycle costs money for education, transportation, child care, the works.

And it hasn't even started snowing yet.

There will be spots all over the area for people to give cans and packages of nonperishable food. That helps. But it would help even more if people would give money that can be used by the Food Bank and its allies not only to buy food, but to pay staff, run their own trucks and keep their own lights on.

Volunteers are also appreciated. There is a need for workers, especially those who can commit to repeated visits after the initial training, to help sort the donated foods and inspect packaging and expiration dates. The Food Bank is a central distribution center for both food pantries and soup kitchens through the area. It's a vital effort, and it needs help. Donations can be made, and more information is available, at the Food Bank of Western New York Web site: www.foodbankwny.org.

People who run the Food Bank and the various pantries and soup kitchens are not only seeing new faces -- especially those of single senior citizens they are starting to see in the receiving line the occasional person who, just months ago, was a donor.

That's why more people need to be donors. You never know.

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