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      Changing face of those seeking food assistance

      One in six americans doesn't know how they will get their next meal. In central Alabama, more than half a million people count on food pantries, which receive supplies from food banks and then provide assistance to those in need. The belief that problems associated with hunger are confined to small pockets of society is just not true. Alabama has the second highest food hardship rate in the nation. Food pantries are seeing a changing face of those coming through the doors. "It's terrifying," that's Gloria McMaster's description of not having food in her pantry. McMaster receives food assistance from The Salvation Army in Birmingham. "To have that help is just unbelievable."

      Larry Dancy, director of social services for The Salvation Army says every week the food pantry donates stocked food bags to 40 families.

      "There is no particular face that will fit any particular family, because they come from all walks of life," says Dancy. "There are families who have been in poverty for several generations, there are folks who this is their first time in this kind of a need."Dancy sees more 'new faces' as of late.{} "Now a days, just walking down the street you never know from person to person what that person is struggling with. It's just really a combination of different things. There are folks who have absolutely nothing to eat, although they may work full time."More than 900,000 Alabamians are food insecure. Mary Michael Kelley is executive director of the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama. She says food insecurity is spreading to different segments of the population, including those who consider themselves middle class."We just have a huge need in this community for food for people who have never experienced this before.{}A lot of these people have jobs, they're working hard to provide for their family, but it's still just not enough," says Kelley.The food bank's service area includes 12 counties in central Alabama, helping more than half a million people. Kelley says the summer months are especially challenging."They're having to make up for what their children aren't getting in schools right now."{}The demand doesn't appear to be going away.{} "Two years ago, we distributed seven million pounds of food, last year, 2013, we distributed nine million pounds of food. This year we are on track to distribute 12 million pounds of food," says Kelley.{}If you are in need of food assistance, or are looking for a food pantry in your area, please call the United Way referral line at 2-1-1, have your zip code ready, and tell them you are looking for a food pantry in your area.

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