District fights hunger during the holidays

An increased poverty rate in the District has led at least one local charity to step up efforts to feed poor families this Thanksgiving.

Bread for the City, a nonprofit organization, hopes to provide 13,000 low-income families with meals this holiday season. They hosted a telethon at the Old Post Office Pavillion Thursday to collect food and donations for families in the area. It was coordinated in conjunction with WHUR, a radio station at Howard.

Renee Nash, director of public affairs for WHUR, said this Thanksgiving is especially important for their cause.

“The reality is the housing market is in the slump. Many people are facing foreclosure,” Nash said. “Many people are trying to keep a roof over their heads, and they are not able to go out there and purchase a traditional Thanksgiving meal.”

D.C.’s poverty rate has increased significantly in the past decade, according a recent study by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization. According to the study, the income of low-wage workers in D.C. has changed very little over the past 30 years. Combined with dramatic inflation growth, Bread for the City has experienced an unprecedented demand for aid.

“It’s not just the homeless,but the working poor,” Nash said. “We want to make sure that our listeners understand that these are people that live next door to us, that we work with everyday, that we see walking down the street everyday. That is the face of the needy.”

Bread for the City’s annual Holiday Helpings program has been ongoing for more than a decade, but they said they are now beginning to experience serious problems. This year, government funding of D.C. food assistance programs is drastically less than last year.

Kristen Valentine, the director of development for Bread for the City, said the government cutbacks were not unexpected.

“We didn’t realize that the USDA was going to cut donations so significantly,” Valentine said. “We have already surpassed our food budget.”

Despite obstacles, volunteers have still collected donations for those in need. Those at Thursday’s event said they know they cannot help everyone.

“It’s not about how many. It’s just about one,” said Latoya Banks, a junior at George Mason University. “To help does not mean you have to solve the world’s problems. The world had problems before I was born and they will continue afterwards, and if I can make my mark even in a small way that’s the point.”

Nash said it takes community involvement to solve this poverty problem.

“It’s not just enough to talk about the problem, to report the problem,” Nash said. “We have to actively be involved in correcting the problem.”

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