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PBS Newshour: Hunger In America

From The PBS Newshour Hunger in America: JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight: hunger in America. Jeffrey Brown has our story. JEFFREY BROWN: One in seven Am

From The PBS Newshour Hunger in America:

JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight: hunger in America. Jeffrey Brown has our story.

JEFFREY BROWN: One in seven American households had a hard time putting enough food on the table last year, that from a new report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- 14.6 percent of U.S. households, nearly 50 million Americans, found themselves in need during 2008, an increase of 13 million people from the year before. The new figure is the highest since data collection began in 1995.

The USDA called the problem food insecurity, instead of hunger. But, by any name, President Obama said, the findings were unsettling. And his secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, said it's a -- quote -- "wakeup call for the country."

Inside those numbers, a more dire toll: One-third of those in need said they have been forced to skip meals, cut portions significantly, or go without food altogether.

Cynthia Sibley helps coordinate the Simple Supper, a community meal and food bank run from a Methodist church in Eagle, Colorado. She says the recession has affected many levels of her community.

CYNTHIA SIBLEY, Simple Supper: It's hitting people that -- it's surprising a lot of us. And all of us here are feeling it in one way or another. And we know people who have either lost their homes, lost their jobs. It's -- you know, it's shaking us to the core. And I know that there are a lot of places across the country that this is occurring, but to see it, you know, firsthand and experience it...

JEFFREY BROWN: Nationwide, the report said, 17 million children did not have enough to eat last year. And the Agriculture Department predicted the numbers for this year are likely to be worse still.

And now to some close-to-the-ground views from two regions. J.C. Dwyer is with the Texas Food Bank Network, a nonprofit statewide group. He joins us from San Antonio. Lynn Brantley is president and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

Mr. Dwyer, I wonder, first, did this report surprise you, based on what you're seeing there?

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