One in six U.S. families with children don't have enough to eat this holiday season, a national emergency exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and the unemployment crisis it has generated.
According to Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the U.S., more than 50 million people will experience food insecurity by the end of the year. Among U.S. children, the figure rises to one in four. The group, which runs a network of some 200 food banks across the nation, says it distributed over half a billion meals last month alone, a 52% increase from an average pre-pandemic month.
The latest U.S. Census Bureau pandemic survey, published earlier this month, found that fewer than half of U.S. households with children were "very confident" they could afford to provide enough food for their families in the next month.
When it comes to matters of economic inequality, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately impacted by the hunger crisis.
Among the 25 U.S. counties experiencing the worst food insecurity, only four have majority white populations, all of them in rural Kentucky. Census Bureau data reveals that fully 27% of Black and 23% of Latinx households with children reported not having enough to eat over the past week—compared with just 12% of white families.
"People are seeing hunger like they've never seen it before," Trisha Cunningham, president of the North Texas Food Bank—where cars lined up for miles and people slept in their vehicles waiting for Thanksgiving food boxes.
"We're now seeing families who had an emergency fund but it's gone and they're at the end of their rope," Kristin Warzocha, president of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, told the Guardian. "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."
In Texas' second-largest city, the San Antonio Food Bank distributes eight semi-trucks full of food every day, but still was forced to resort to rationing due to soaring need.
San Antonio Food Bank CEO Eric Cooper told CNBC. "Pre-pandemic we were feeding around 60,000 people a week, and now we're seeing around 120,000... and most of those are new to the food bank. They've never had to ask for help before."
Thousands of cars that lined up starting in the pre-dawn hours for free Thanksgiving meals at Houston's NRG Stadium last weekend. If a person driving a Mercedes is in need of food, you know it's bad.