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Feinstein Seeks Help for Food Banks in Calif.

Above: A volunteer gives needy people a monthly food handout from the Imperial Valley Food Bank Bank through the Sister Evelyn Mourey Center on March 13, 2009 in El Centro, California. El Centro is suffering the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 22.6 percent, nearly as high as rates during the Great Depression, with Latinos especially being hit hard.

— California Sen. Dianne Feinstein says food banks in the state's agricultural regions need help from the federal government to meet a massive increase in demand.

She blamed three years of below-normal precipitation in California, which has led to fallowed fields, and a high unemployment in many Central Valley communities. The jobless rate has been as high as 40 percent in some areas.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the California Democrat said the problem is worst in Fresno County. Food banks there need another 4 million pounds of food per month just to meet the existing need.

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