In the past year, Los Angeles has cut its emergency food budget by half, while demand has risen 21 percent, according to a report released Tuesday.
A survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors said two out of three major cities showed decreased emergency food supplies while demand is up an average 24 percent.
Of those across the nation asking for food aid, 56 percent were families, 19 percent seniors, 30 percent had jobs and 17 percent were homeless.
"This year's survey makes it clear that even working families are increasingly at risk for hunger and homelessness as a result of the crippled economy and rising unemployment," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, vice president of the conference, in a statement.
"As mayors, it is our responsibility to create effective local programs and strengthen federal partnerships to help those in need."
The annual Hunger and Homelessness survey tracked 27 major U.S. cities. Among the findings:
Hunger was caused by unemployment, followed by high housing costs, low wages, poverty and nonaccess to food stamps.
All but one of the cities expect emergency food demand to increase, with decreasing resources - especially from federal and state funds - the biggest challenge to addressing hunger.
The number of homeless singles rose an average 2 percent, while the number of homeless families jumped an average 9 percent.
In Los Angeles County, homelessness
In the San Fernando Valley, the number of homeless fell from 11,200 to 3,300 during the same period.
Of the 25,000 homeless in the city of Los Angeles, according to the survey, 24 percent were severely mentally ill, 23 percent physically disabled, 16 percent veterans and 9 percent victims of domestic violence.
This year, homeless shelters had to turn away residents, with 9 percent of the demand unmet.
"Because of the economy, we anticipate the numbers will go up in our homeless count in January," said Stephani Hardy, director of policy and planning for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
While the mayor's survey focused primarily on cities, the hunger data referred to Los Angeles County as a whole.
The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank reported a 50 percent drop in emergency food funding, from $1.55 million to $781,000, because a massive federal stimulus funding grant in 2009 did not carry over this year.
In the past two years, the food bank has seen a 44 percent increase in demand from 500 food pantry clients across the county.
"This is kind of the new norm," said Jeff Dronkers, chief programs and policy officer for the food bank. "I do think food demand is going to go up in 2011, with the lingering recession."
"We're asking our food partners to do a lot more. They've had to turn people away, and to cut the food given clients."