In March of 2020, just before COVID-19 began to become a problem in the United States, 11 million American kids and 24 million American adults were living in households that were food insecure. That number was the lowest rate of food insecurity the United States had seen in nearly two decades.
That progress in reducing the number of families who experience food insecurity has been wiped out in the nine-months since COVID-19 led to mass unemployment and shrinking local and national economies.
Now, as it turns out, it’s more likely than not that some 50 million Americans total — and 17 million American kids — will experience food insecurity this year. Food banks across America are feeling the strain of millions of more folks needing food assistance this year — and Thanksgiving will prove to be a huge challenge.
How Many More People Are Using Food Banks?
Food banks have been strained under the weight of COVID-19. One nonprofit organization in D.C. told ABC News that his kitchen, DC Central Kitchen, would be providing 12,000 Thanksgiving meals this year. Last year, they provided 7,000 meals.
That task is made far more difficult and strenuous because, in the past, buffet-style dining in dining halls was the status quo for Thanksgiving meals. Now, meals have to be individually packaged and delivered so as not to engender the spread of COVID-19. That means way more work, way more cost, and way more effort for food banks.
One in six Americans — and 25 percent of American kids — are likely to experience food insecurity this year; and some limited surveys have suggested that 4 in 10 Americans are experiencing food insecurity this year for the first time. Given that over 11 million people in the United States are still unemployed, it stands to reason that Thanksgiving will be a tough holiday for many families.
A YMCA spokesperson also told ABC that their locations with food assistance programs had a 25% increase in foot traffic this year — and that the vast majority of new folks seeking out food assistance are not actually unemployed people but people who do have jobs but aren’t making enough to afford to feed themselves or their families. 40 percent of households in the United States fall under this distinction. That alone is a tragedy.
One director of an Alabama food bank group named Laura Lester told CNBC that she was worried about a “food cliff,” the point when food banks won’t be able to keep up with the demand of the needs of food-insecure people. One NYC based program, according to the same publication, has spent 50 times more on food this year, which is not yet over, than they have in normal years — and they only expect that number to rise as the year goes on.
Simply put, food insecurity is a problem that goes well beyond Thanksgiving. Plus, 12 million Americans are expected to lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, making a hard problem worse. But there are ways that you can help.
How Can You Help?
Donating canned food or accepted food items to food banks in your neighborhood is one of the main ways that you can help organizations keep up with the fundamental challenges of providing food to communities while keeping them safe from super-spreader COVID-19 events.
The other thing that people need — more than a volunteer network or bodies on the ground — is money. Direct cash donations would provide a world of good for organizations that are simply trying to buy more food to help people out — especially as Congress fails to act on passing legislation to aid food banks and other welfare organizations across the country.
Look at nonprofits in your area and provide either canned goods or money to help them keep families across the country fed this Thanksgiving and beyond.