When it comes to Thanksgiving hunger in America this year, more people are hurting and fewer people are helping.
"Some of the people who had been giving are people who need help this year," said Wiley Cooper, director of the United Way of America's emergency food and shelter program.The slumping national economy and fears of war in the Middle East are cutting into donations, charity groups say.
Joseph Zalenski, director of the Brotherhood Mission in Philadelphia, said some people are disheartened because they can't give.
"The only thing I can do is to graciously back off and say, `I appreciate your plight,' " Zalenski said. " `I understand and I only hope it doesn't get worse for you, so that you don't come down to where these people are right now,' " he said.
The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates there are 3 million homeless people nationwide. Cooper said there is no reliable way of counting the hungry, but "the people who are providing the services are reporting to us their demand is up greatly."
"The economy and the Saudi Arabia thing have hurt us the most," said Ron Cool of the Kiwanis Club of Little Rock, Ark. Donations for Thanksgiving food baskets are off 10 percent to 15 percent, he said. "People are a little afraid, and they're hanging onto their bucks."
Some restaurants that helped supply the Rhode Island Community Food Bank have gone out of business, said Eileen Welly, executive director. A drive last week collected 300,000 pounds of canned foods - 100,000 pounds less than last year.
Salvation Army Lt. Col. Ferraez said demand for Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday relief services is up nearly 20 percent at the army's 9,000 centers.
Last year, the Salvation Army spent $115 million for food, shelter, clothing, toys and parties over the holidays. This year, Ferraez said $138 million will be needed. He couldn't say how much has been raised so far.
"We just pray that the resources come in," said Ferraez, Salvation Army spokesman.
Some 5,000 households will celebrate Thanksgiving with canned hams and chickens from the Maryland Food Bank, even though the agency's holiday food drive has collected 180,000 pounds of food, far short of the 650,000 pounds it had hoped for.
Feed the Hungry in Atlanta will serve 23,000 to 25,000 Thanksgiving dinners and deliver an additional 4,000. It served 21,000 last year.