As we give thanks this year for all we have, it's good to remember those who are less fortunate. Our union is the food workers' union, with UFCW members working in grocery stores, packing plants, and food processing plants—and UFCW members and local unions have long been involved in efforts to help the hungry and provide for those in need.
One of the most successful, and certainly the largest of these efforts is the joint UFCW/Smithfield Feeding the Hungry (FTH) Program. We just completed year one of the three-year, multi-city, coast to coast effort to donate and deliver more than 20 million servings of protein to food banks. The program launched in November of 2009, and has engaged the participation of UFCW local unions and members, elected officials, labor and community activists, and celebrity chefs like Paula Deen and the Food Network's Jeff Henderson. So far, over a million pounds of proteins have been distributed to food banks in 23 cities.
This effort, sadly, is more necessary than ever before. Food banks nationwide are reporting a 46 percent increase in the number of people coming to them for help. As people continue to lose jobs, that has a big effect on food banks’ ability to meet that demand. As a result, food assistance organizations across the country have been reporting over the past year that more individuals and families are turning to them for assistance than ever.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said that the first human right—the greatest human right—was access to food. The Feeding the Hungry Program is about doing our small part to uphold that right. Our members—and our locals unions—are part of the fabric of their communities. They work tirelessly to ensure that our neighborhoods are strong, stable, and secure. And we engage on issues like hunger because we understand that in these challenging economic times, all of us have an obligation to be active and involved in the communities we serve. That's what the Feeding the Hungry campaign is all about. It's about being a good neighbor. It's about ensuring nutritious meals for every family, in every community.
The UFCW is committed to ensuring that families across the country have the relief and the opportunities they need to weather the current economic crises. Our goal is simple: Get good, nutritious food to as many families, in as many communities, as possible. And we are committed to partnering with Smithfield to do just that in the coming year. All across the country, the UFCW and our allies are committed to providing the resources and manpower to ensure that the feeding the hungry program reaches as many families, as many tables, in as many communities, as possible. We hope that our involvement—and the participation of our partners—can shine a light on this critical issue, and help us take action to fight hunger in America.