For years, the food pantry in Crystal Lake, Ill., a bedroom community 50 miles west of Chicago, has catered to the suburban area's poor, homeless and unemployed. But Cate Williams, the head of the pantry, said earlier this year that she has noticed a striking change in the makeup of the needy over the past year or two. Some families that once pulled down six-figure incomes and drove flashy cars are turning to the pantry for help. A few of them donated food and money to the pantry before their luck soured, according to Williams. "People will shyly say to me, 'You know, I used to give money and food to you guys. Now I need your help,'" Williams told The Fiscal Times. "Most of the folks we see now are people who never took a handout before. They were comfortable, able to feed themselves, to keep gas in the car and keep a nice roof over their head." Suburbia always had its share of low-income families and the poor, but the sharp surge in suburban poverty is beginning to grab the attention of demographers, government officials and social service advocates. The past decade has marked the most significant rise in poverty in modern times. One in six people in the U.S. is poor, according to the latest census data, compared with one in 10 Americans in 2004. This surge in the percentage of the poor is fueling concerns about a growing disparity between the rich and poor -- the 99% versus the 1%, in the parlance of the Occupy Wall Street movement. But contrary to stereotypes that the worst of poverty is centered in urban areas or isolated rural areas and Appalachia, the suburbs have been hit hardest in recent years, an analysis of census data reveals. "If you take a drive through the suburbs and look at the strip mall vacancies, the 'For Sale' signs, and the growing lines at unemployment offices and social services providers, you'd have to be blind not to see the economic crisis is hitting home in a way these areas have never experienced," said Donna Cooper, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.