In Charlotte, hunger rises as food donations dwindle

With just a week left until Thanksgiving, Mecklenburg County's network of food pantries is facing a crisis of too many hungry people and not enough food.

Empty shelves abound at Loaves & Fishes, with the food stock down by 50 percent compared to last year. Meanwhile, the agency saw a 24 percent jump in clients last month, feeding 2,000 people over what it fed in October 2010.

Adding to the anxiety: The week of Thanksgiving is typically the busiest week of the year for the agency's 19 pantries.

A Thanksgiving food drive has been launched to try and restock shelves in time for the crush of holiday clients.

But agency officials admit there is a definite problem with "donor fatigue," along with the fact that past donors to the agency are now among the unemployed.

Beverly Howard, executive director of Loaves & Fishes, says she keeps a letter from one such former donor in the top drawer of her desk to remind her why things have gotten so tough.

"We are not going to close any pantries, but we are facing the greatest challenge of our 36 years of distributing food," Howard said.

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