It's a media holiday tradition: The hunger story. As winter sets in, the media discovers long lines and "critical shortages" at food banks, with blame placed squarely on federal budget cuts (often blamed on Republicans) and lousy economic prospects in the United States.
The latest entree came on Friday's front page,reported by Katie Zezima: "Food Banks, In a Squeeze, Tighten Belts ."
"Food banks around the country are reporting critical shortages that have forced them to ration supplies, distribute staples usually reserved for disaster relief and in some instances close. Zezima contacted several food banks in the Northeast U.S., as well as Alaska and California.
"'It's one of the most demanding years I've seen in my 30 years' in the field, said Catherine D'Amato, president and chief executive of the Greater Boston Food Bank, comparing the situation to the recession of the late 1970s.
"Experts attributed the shortages to an unusual combination of factors, including rising demand, a sharp drop in federal supplies of excess farm products, and tighter inventory controls that are leaving supermarkets and other retailers with less food to donate."
The text box read: "A problem of more mouths to feed and less food to feed them."
"The Vermont Food Bank said its supply of food was down 50 percent from last year. 'It's a crisis mode,' said Doug O'Brien, the bank's chief executive.
"For two weeks this month, the New Hampshire Food Bank distributed supplies reserved for emergency relief. Demand for food here is up 40 percent over last year and supply is down 30 percent, which is striking in the state with the lowest reliance on food banks.
"'It's the price of oil, gas, rents and foreclosures," said Melanie Gosselin, executive director of the New Hampshire Food Bank."
Naturally, the Timespointed towarda lousy economy, andZezima's sources dutifully donated musty liberal talking points. Continuing the Christmas spirit, the Times didn't question the food banks methodology, but instead wolfed down every dubious claim about increasing demand at food banks- demand that has, according to statistics from liberal interest groups, increased every single year it's been tracked.
"Ms. Gosselin said household budget squeezes had led to a drop in donations and greater demand. 'This is not the old 'only the homeless are hungry,'' she said. 'It's working people.'
"Lane Kenworthy, a professor of sociology and political science at the University of Arizona, agreed, saying: 'The overall picture is that household incomes are kind of stuck. There's very little way to increase income, and most people have a very heavy debt load. Any event that increases your costs is really, really troublesome, because you're already stretched thin.'
"The food bank in Manchester delivers provisions to a housing project each week, and on a recent Monday, Matthew Whooley, 26, of Manchester, was waiting in line with his wife, Penny, and their four children.
"'Every week there's less and less food,' Mr. Whooley said. 'It used to be potatoes, meat and bread, and last week we got Doritos and flour. The food is getting shorter, and the lines keep getting longer.'...Susannah Morgan, executive director of the Food Bank of Alaska said, 'The biggest problem is that the federal government's programs are dropping as need is growing.'"
Zezima ended with more despondency.
"'Donations are down, and people who need help is up,' said Liz Carter, executive director of the food bank. 'So what are we going to do. We just made the decision that instead of giving people six or seven days worth of food, we're going to give them three or four days of food, which is a drop in the bucket.'
"Ginny Hildebrand, executive director of the Association of Arizona Food Banks, said many pantries were facing similar situations.
"At a recent conference for food bank employees, Ms. Hildebrand said, 'Everybody was saying the same thing. They're all hit by an increase in demand, all hit by the impact of the higher costs of food, and all hit by federal reductions. We just don't have the quantity of products available that we used to.'
"Ross Fraser, a spokesman for America's Second Harvest, which distributes more than two billion pounds of donated food and grocery products annually, said the shortages at food banks were the worst the organization had seen in 26 years.
"'Suddenly it's on everyone's radar,' Mr. Fraser said. 'Food banks are calling us and saying, 'My God, we have to get food.'"
The Times found no one to challenge the liberal notion of a hunger crisis in America, though groups have been notorious with fuzzy statistics showing hunger rates constantly on the increase in America.
At least the Times this time around avoided the notoriously off U.S. Conference of Mayors' report, which gave bizarre compound statistics for hunger in America suggesting the problem had grown 1240% over a 16-year period .