The Untouched Topic In The GOP Race: Poverty08:03
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Larry Whitten, 59, packs donated food into a duffel bag to carry home, from a food pantry at the Pass It On Ministries in Miami. (AP)
Larry Whitten, 59, packs donated food into a duffel bag to carry home, from a food pantry at the Pass It On Ministries in Miami. (AP)

Politicians have addressed poverty while campaigning in the past-- John Edwards embarked on a poverty tour in 2008, Robert Kennedy held field hearings on hunger in 1968. But poverty has not been a big issue during the race for the GOP nomination.

Meanwhile, Republican hopefuls will soon turn their attention to Florida, which has seen the largest increase in poverty in the country since 2007.

The View From A Food Bank

Al Brislain, CEO of the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers, Florida, says that poverty has skyrocketed in the last five years.

"We've seen an increase of about 250 percent in terms of people using the emergency food program. It's just been a tsunami.. what with all the foreclosures and lay offs" he told Here & Now's Deb Becker.

GOP's Message And Florida

GOP candidates have accused President Obama of fostering dependence on the government, Newt Gingrich even called him the "food stamp president."

Brislain says the people he sees coming for food are the first to say they don't want to be there.

"It's people that would much rather have jobs, it's people that are embarrassed to be standing in a food line," he said.

He says he finds it disrespectful to disparage those who rely on food aid.

Brislain says that if the Republicans running for the nomination or President Obama were to drop by his food bank, he would take them out to the mobile food banks, where people start lining up two hours in advance for a food distribution program.

A Far Fall

Brislain says before the recession, the economy in his area was strong with just 2.5 percent unemployment. "We went in a matter of a couple years to 15 percent unemployment," he said.

"It was just terrible to see people that had been working all their lives and all of a sudden they couldn't find a job," he said.

Brislain says the type of person now coming to him for food assistance is also shifting-- in addition to their more typical visitors like disabled elderly who can't work, he has seen an uptick among those that are working.

"We're seeing so many working poor and people that just can't find jobs and people that were making 20, 30 dollars an hour and now are making ten or 12 dollars an hour and deal with the same mortgage and bills," he said.

Guest:

  • Al Brislain, CEO of the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers, Florida

This segment aired on January 13, 2012.

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