6abc IKEA Holiday Food Drive kicks off

KENSINGTON - November 7, 2010

Every day in increasing numbers, the region's hungry flock to places like the St. Francis Inn in Kensington.

They are people like 25-year-old Kimberly Gargel, a single mother of two young children.

"I'm a fulltime mother so it's kind of hard right now and I have problems with my knees," Gargel said.

Since the recession began, the numbers of families and elderly seeking food from soup kitchens across the region has skyrocketed.

Professor Mariana Chilton of the Drexel University School of Public Health is considered the area's leading expert on hunger.

"The magnitude of hunger is very hard to fathom, but if you think about certain areas of Philadelphia, 1 in 3 families, 1 in 3 people, have food hardship which means they don't have enough money for food," Chilton said.

Experts say the number of Americans receiving food stamps has increased 50% since the recession began in late 2007.

According to the latest census data, the 1st Congressional District represented by Congressman Bob Brady which includes parts of North, West and South Philadelphia as well as Chester is among the 10 poorest in the country.

"It's my main concern. I'm going to address this wholeheartedly. I have been for the last year and we're pretty soon going to start showing some fruits of our labor, hopefully," Brady said.

Congressman Brady expects to have a major announcement with Philabundance soon in trying to address the growing problem.

"The need is excruciating, the number of people that present themselves to food pantries and cupboards throughout the Delaware Valley has grown 60% throughout in the last two years," Philabundance C.E.O Bill Clark said.

Professor Chilton believes more has to be done to prevent people from reaching the point of going hungry in a country that is the largest food producer in the world.

"We also need to hold our government leaders accountable; we need to get more civically engaged, get them talking about poverty," Chilton said.

The bottom line is the number of folks that are in need now across our region is at an all time high.

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