Alabamians feeling hunger pangs

By Cody Holyoke - bio | email

Montgomery, Al. (WSFA) -- For thousands of visitors, Montgomery's 2008 Buckmasters Expo was a hunting Mecca--back after a three year absence.

For food bank workers, however, the event was a long awaited goldmine:  31,117 pounds and 22 large tote boxes full of canned goods.

With a slowing economy, the donations were more than welcome.

"What is really amazing is that most people didn't come in with one can.  Often times, they came in with a bag of groceries," explained Jolene Kearns of the Montgomery Area Food Bank.

For residents across the state, pocketbooks are becoming tighter.

With bills through the roof, putting food on the table can sometimes take a back seat.

"A lot of things come first, believe it or not, and food is really something they cut back on," Kearns said.

Now, residents are turning to the state's food stamp system to try to lessen the financial burden.

584,458 Alabamians were enrolled in the program last month--up 6% from 2007.

"The economy has increased our participation [from residents] more than our efforts this year," explained Mary Lois Monroe, Director of the Food Assistance Division of the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

With prices on the rise and the economy in turmoil, even working residents are looking for a little help at the grocery store.

"We're seeing more working families going where they can for help," Monroe said.

The state is trying to get more people on board the food stamp program in these hard economic times.

As for the 15 tons of food donated by Buckmasters patrons, food bank workers say those supplies will be gone in a week.