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    More of Philadelphia’s working poor need food assistance

    The economy and tight job market are changing the way some people fill their refrigerators. A new federal survey estimates 17 million American households had difficulty putting food on the table last year, up from 13 million the year before.

    The economy and tight job market are changing the way some people fill their refrigerators. A new federal survey estimates 17 million American households had difficulty putting food on the table last year, up from 13 million the year before.

    Now more families are getting food for free in one blue collar riverfront Philadelphia neighborhood.

    Listen:
    [audio: 091118lfpantry.mp3]

    Bridesburg food pantry
    Bridesburg food pantry

    Patrons push shopping carts through an aisle stocked with stuffing mix, baby food, canned sweet potatoes, and plenty more. It’s not a grocery store; it’s a room in Bridesburg United Methodist Church, where a food pantry opened in September.

    Volunteer Florence Rogers says 15 families came at first. Now there are more than 100 and she says many have never been to a food pantry before.

    Rogers: We’re trying to make everyone feel comfortable. A lot of people that do come in, once you break the initial smile you can tell that they’re relieved because they didn’t really want to come, but they need to come.

    Food pantries, once seen as a resource mostly for senior citizens and the chronically poor, now draw plenty of newcomers.

    Bill Clark is the President of Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger relief organization.

    Baby food at the food pantry
    Baby food at the food pantry

    Clark: The majority of people we see are probably either employed or have someone in their household that’s employed.

    Back at the food pantry, Tracie Roth’s making her way through the room, as a baby cries and shopping carts roll by.

    Roth, a crossing guard, needs help supporting her three daughters and their father – who’s struggling to find work in construction. Roth says a lot of people in the neighborhood need food, but she worried they wouldn’t show up.

    Bridesburg resident Tracie Roth at the food pantry
    Bridesburg resident Tracie Roth at the food pantry

    Roth: I just know Bridesburg. I know we’re proud people, you know we don’t like to ask for help. Born and raised her 38 years I know a lot of people are like me – just too proud to go elsewhere you know. This helps because it’s family. We all know each other.

    Bridesburg resident Jack Howard says he’d never been to a food pantry before a handful of recent trips here. He works as a cashier at WaWa.

    Food pantry patron Jack Howard donating clothes
    Food pantry patron Jack Howard donating clothes

    Howard: I’m just lucky to even have a job because there are people out there who don’t have anything.

    Howard wants to give back what he can. Rather than coming to pick-up food, he walks in with a full plastic bag. It’s packed with clothes he wants to donate.

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