ATLANTA -- More than half of the clients at the Atlanta Community Food Bank have jobs, but they don't earn enough to make ends meet, according to Bill Bolling, the founder and CEO.
"The greatest growth in poverty and the greatest growth in hunger is in the suburbs," Bolling said. "Look around. It's probably a neighbor. It's somebody we might worship with or someone in our social club."
One in seven Americans – 46 million people – rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families, according to a study by Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks, including the ACFB.
Nationwide, 25 percent of military families – 620,000 households – need help putting food on the table, the study found.
"The results are alarming," says Bob Aiken, chief executive officer of Feeding America. "It means that people in America have to make trade-offs. They have to pick between buying food for their children or paying for utilities, rent and medicine."
The Hunger in America study found that of people who use food banks:
• 26% are black, 20% are Hispanic, 43% are white and 11% are other.
• 33% of households have at least one family member with diabetes.
• 65% of households have a child under 18 or someone 60 or older.
"The national conversation in America is around education and healthcare. But if we want better health outcomes, if we want our children to learn, we should feed them," Bolling said.
Bolling said the people of Atlanta have stepped up to meet the growing need.
He said the number of volunteers at the ACFB has almost doubled in five years to more than 20,000. Many of the volunteers are young people.