Millions of Americans must rely on charity to put Thanksgiving dinner on the table this year, as hunger surges amid a devastating spiraling of the Covid-19 pandemic which the Trump administration has failed to get under control.
In what is traditionally a season of celebration, less than half of US households with children feel “very confident” about having enough money to afford the food needed over the next month, according to the US Census Bureau’s latest pandemic survey. A staggering 5.6m households struggled to put enough food on the table in the past week.
Families of color are suffering disproportionately with 27% of black and 23% of Latino respondents with children reported not having enough to eat sometimes or often over the past week – compared with 12% of white people.
Overall food insecurity has doubled since last year due to record unemployment and underemployment rates. For families with children, hunger is three times higher than in 2019, according to analysis by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, director of the non-partisan Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.
Now, as states across the country contemplate new lockdowns to slow down the rampant spread and record hospitalizations, the unprecedented demand for food aid is on the rise, according to the Guardian’s latest snapshot survey:
In Cleveland, 5,000 families showed up last Thursday for the pre-Thanksgiving drive-in distribution compared with 3,300 a week earlier and an average of 1,600 over the summer. Some 54% of the food distributed was for children and seniors. “We’re now seeing families who had an emergency fund but it’s gone and they’re at the end of their rope. We’re going to be doing this for a really long time, and that’s frankly terrifying given the impact hunger has on physical health, learning and development for children and parents’ stress,” said Kristin Warzocha, president of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
One woman in Cleveland, who didn’t want to be identified, discharged herself from the hospital against medical advice so that she didn’t miss the Thanksgiving food box delivery. “That’s the depth of need and desperation some families are feeling,” added Warzocha.
Earlier this month, there were long lines in Dallas as the North Texas Food Bank provided groceries to just over 25,000 people – its busiest day on record. The food bank distributed 7,000 whole turkeys that day, and a total of about 600,000 pounds of food. “Hunger isn’t hidden any more,” said Trisha Cunningham, CEO of the food bank. “If it isn’t you, then this is your neighbor, this is your child’s classmate, this is your hairdresser.”
In central Alabama, demand at the Grace Klein food pantry is up 20% since last month. “It could be the rumours of civil unrest or the rise in Covid cases driving demand, but people are living off this food,” said director Jenny Waltman. The pantry is currently serving about 12,000 people each week, compared with 2,500 a week before the pandemic. The 200 volunteers and staff are exhausted, said Waltman.
The Food Bank of New York was forced to start doling out the Thanksgiving frozen turkeys well…