Along with lost jobs and the housing market crash, America’s economic woes have taken another toll: one in six people — 49 million in all — are having trouble keeping food on the table, especially in Forsyth County. Although this Atlanta suburb’s average household income reaches $88,000, one of the highest in the US, their food banks have never been busier feeding the needy.

America’s “new poor,” people who are suddenly down on their luck, are swallowing their pride and bustling into The Place, Forsyth County’s biggest non-profit center for social services.

“The new poor could be you, me, your neighbor, your church member, somebody who has been affected by the economy,” said The Place’s Sandy Beaver. “Many of our people who have come for assistance used to be our donors. And they’ll say, ‘I never thought I’d have to do this, never in my wildest dreams.’”

One retired couple in their 70s, hit by bad investments, a ruined portfolio and costly medical issues, now qualify for food stamps and risk losing their home. “Taking the food was really tough,” the tearful woman said. “The hard part was, we used to give it, and now I’m taking it back, you know?”

At Forsyth County’s Lambert High School, eight percent of kids now get free lunch, twice the number from three years ago. Gladys Sasso-Alvarez, who directs the district’s help for needy students, said many of the children are ashamed about getting the help and feel it is an embarrassment to eat for free.

Unfortunately, Beaver doesn’t see the problems going away anytime soon. “There’s still people losing jobs every day. There’s still people losing homes every day. And I always wonder, where do they do? When they lose a home, where do they go? ‘Cause we don’t always see them after that,” she said.

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