(Nov. 19) Although donations to U.S. food banks are as high as ever, food pantries, kitchens and shelters are complaining of empty shelves.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported an increase from last year of more than 4 million people who live in food-impoverished households.

According to the USDA, more than 35.5 million people, including 12.6 million children, are struggling to afford to feed themselves.

The holidays can be an especially busy time for food banks for many reasons. One is higher utility bills during the winter. Another is the school closings for the holidays.

“Kids who relied on reduced price or free meals from their schools aren’t getting those,” said Ross Fraser, media relations manager for America’s Second Harvest, Chicago.

Fraser told the Associated Press in mid-November that pre-Thanksgiving needs were already depleting food banks’ pantries.

“We have food banks in virtually every city in the country, and what we are hearing is that they are all facing severe shortages with demand so high,” Fraser told the AP. “One of our food banks in Florida said demand is up 35 percent over this time last year.”

Fraser said that fresh produce is a huge part of what the food banks need.

“When food banking began, they offered whatever they could get,” Fraser said. “Now, there is an increased need to offer the healthiest foods we can, rather than just whatever we can get.”