Hunger relief advocates testified on Capitol Hill Thursday, asking the government to expand nutrition and back-to-work programs.
The hearing followed a USDA report, released this week, which shows the number of Americans struggling with hunger is the highest it has been in 14 years and is expected to get worse.
The USDA started tracking American's access to food 14 years ago. Their latest report shows 49 million people struggling either to put nutritious, quality food on the table - or simply, enough food.
However, the real concern is that close to 6 percent of U.S. households experienced very low food security in 2008. That is, they had to cut back on the amount of food they consumed. That's up from 4 percent in 2007.
Those figures mean record numbers of Americans are applying for food stamps and standing in food lines - like one in San Diego.
"Some wait over 12 hours," said Pastor Deron Matson of the Church of the Nazarene. "We had a three o'clock distribution today and I've seen people line up beginning at 2:30, 3 a.m."
For millions, the numbers mean cutting back on the quality and variety in their diet. Pastor Frank Allen said it's the only way for some people to cope with economic hard times.
"Some folks eat two meals a day," he said. "A lot of people just add another can of water to the soup."
Meanwhile, Candy Hill of Catholic Charities USA says local agencies are getting more requests from first-time clients.
Its Youngstown, Ohio office is getting 70 calls a day for help compared to 100 a month last year.
"It will not only take government being our partner, but it will also take all of us - corporations, philanthropy and individual donors - to solve the extreme problem of hunger in our country today," she said.
"Those we serve are now our neighbors, our former colleagues and hard-working individuals struggling to make ends meet," Hill said.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the economy's continued troubles will likely mean higher numbers next year.
In the meantime, he hopes this year's bleak report will inspire Americans to take action and help those in need.