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Westchester Food Pantries Struggling To Meet Rising Demand

MILLWOOD, N.Y. (CBS 2) -- The cost of food, couple with a tough economy, is driving more people to seek help from local food pantries, not just in the city but even in the affluent suburbs.

One Westchester food bank is starting to feel the pressure, reports CBS 2's Lou Young.

Business has never been better at the Food Bank for Westchester, and for the people who run the bustling warehouse, that is alarming news.

"We're not seeing it go down, we're not even seeing it level off," Kay Flint Coppinger said. "We're seeing it go up, and we're seeing it go up dramatically."

The aisles of food supplies, either donated or purchased with tax dollars, are being funneled to more than 200 agencies in the northern suburbs. Six million pounds of food has been moved this year alone, a 30 percent increase that comes on top of last year's 30 percent increase.

They're getting plenty of donations, but they're having to use all of it. The food sometimes comes in small donations a box at a time. Sometimes it comes by the case, or in bulk like a 600-pound bag of Wheaties – but everything they have stockpiled, if donations stopped now, would be gone in ten days or less.

Nancy Lyons coordinates the volunteers who work at the food bank, and she said there are clear reasons for the deepening demand.

"We have a tremendous number of working poor in our county – people who are used to working five days a week and were cut back to three or perhaps two days a week, other people have lost their job and have had to take a minimum wage job," Lyons said. "There are over 200,000 people in Westchester County who are in need of food, or in danger of needing food."

That is just the part of the problem we can see. The people at the food bank say many of our neighbors remain too ashamed to show up and actually ask for help. Ironically, the food bank has to lock their dumpsters at night to keep people from foraging for cast-offs.

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