The number of residents in the Delaware Valley seeking help from a local nonprofit to feed their families has risen for the fourth straight year.

Staff members at Philabundance, the region's largest hunger relief organization, said its client base increased 23 percent from 2012 to 2013. Since 2009, that figure has shot up by 143 percent. The nonprofit currently provides food to roughly 72,000 people each week at 500 emergency kitchens, pantries and other member agencies throughout the Philadelphia area. 

Philabundance president Bill Clark said the need is so great that the nonprofit ran out of donated food recently for the first time in his 12-year tenure.

"Some cupboards, in particular, that have been open each week for years and years and years went a couple weeks where they couldn't access food from us and they had to cease operations," he said. "They had to turn people away."

Clark said Philabundance's agencies have also seen a spike in clients, ranging from 15 percent to 20 percent, since cuts to the nation's food stamps program went into effect last month. He said it is upsetting that Congress is debating even deeper cuts to those benefits — especially since, in his mind, the federal government is partly responsible for the nation's troubled economy.

"To say that we screwed up the economy, but it's costing us so much in terms of the safety net [that] we can't afford the safety net anymore, seems to me to be a real hypocritical response," he said.

Republicans in Congress argue that the food stamps program has grown too large, and should be reserved for only the neediest Americans.