Get free help preparing your taxes from AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. Find a location



Rewards for Good Sweepstakes

Contests and

Rewards for Good Sweepstakes

Learn about Rewards for Good and you could win $25,000! See official rules.

Driver Safety

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

AARP Books

Visit the Money Section

Enjoy titles on retirement, Social Security, and becoming debt-free.

Jobs You Might Like

most popular


Going Hungry in America

Food Programs Feel the Squeeze

The second in a five-part special report

Higher gas prices also slam volunteers, especially those who deliver food to the homebound. Volunteers racked up 4.8 billion miles offering assistance to the needy in 2006, according to the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. “We’re losing a lot of the volunteers we depend on to deliver food because of these high gas prices,” says Rosanna Smith, program manager for the Clayton County Aging Program in Georgia. “They want to do this with all their heart, but after a while they just can’t.”

Nationwide, 58 percent of all meal-delivery programs are having trouble getting volunteers, according to Meals on Wheels. That figure echoes the results of a recent survey by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, which found that 70 percent of its member agencies are having trouble recruiting or retaining volunteers.

“Everyone’s suffering”

Meanwhile, the lines outside many soup kitchens and food pantries grow longer. “In my 16 years I’ve never seen anything like this outside of disaster response,” Krepcho says. “The increased urgency, the increased need—it’s scary.”

As the nation’s economic troubles deepen, the outlook for many food banks and meal programs is grim. More than two in five food banks have reduced or are considering reducing the amount or variety of food they offer, according to a recent survey by Feeding America. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging reports that half of the organizations it represents have already had to cut back on programs. Nine of 10 expect to cut back in the coming year. Some have shut their doors altogether.

“Everyone’s suffering,” says Eduardo Ramos, 67, who earns $8 an hour as a volunteer coordinator for emergency food aid in Orange County, Calif. To make ends meet, he shares an apartment with a roommate. He has all but given up going out to restaurants. Without the little extra money he earns, he says, he wouldn’t be able to make it. “And many of the people we serve,” he says, “are much worse off.”

Their plight isn’t likely to end anytime soon. In July, food prices showed their highest monthly increase of the year and, according to the Department of Agriculture, will increase 5 to 6 percent in 2008. Driven by growing international demand, the price of food is expected to remain high for at least the next decade.

Energy prices could also remain near record highs, affecting transportation costs across the board. Residential electricity prices, meanwhile, will climb a whopping 9.8 percent in 2009, according to the Energy Information Administration’s forecast, further straining already tight household budgets. Add the growing bite of out-of-pocket medical expenses that many of the nation’s working poor face, and there’s no doubt that food banks and meal programs will be seeing growing numbers of desperate Americans at their doors.

“The only question,” Lowry says, “is whether we’ll have anything to give them.”

Peter Jaret is a freelance writer in Petaluma, Calif.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

membership benefit financial college aarp

Advice on saving for education from AARP® College Savings Solutions from TIAA-CREF.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

member benefit aarp financial service auto insurance

AARP® Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford offers members no-cost quotes.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points

Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.