If you believe the economy is improving, you've likely never met someone who still can't afford a can of cat food.
Marc Okon, who has worked as a stockbroker, entrepreneur and business consultant, has a friend from his old neighborhood in Bayside, Queens, N.Y. He's known her since age 10. Her parents died. She fell on hard times. And the economy hasn't come back for her yet.
"She told me she sometimes fed her cat before herself," Mr. Okon said in a telephone interview.
In February, as headlines raged about a strengthening economy, Mr. Okon started a privately funded nonprofit called Pet Food Stamps. People who are already on government assistance can apply for free pet food.
The group has been swamped with more applications than his staff of a dozen people can readily process. Most applicants send letters detailing how they lost their jobs to outsourcing, their homes to foreclosure or their health to disease or accident.