Food banks have been overflowing with long lines of people all over the United States. Although the unemployment rate is back to near pre-pandemic levels, many Americans have not been able to withstand the 9.1 % price hikes and are now relying on food aid to meet their needs.
Rising prices and the global energy crisis due to the war in Ukraine squeezed the pockets of hundreds of thousands of American families, who no longer count on Covid-19 assistance.
“The food banks, which had started to see some relief as people returned to work after pandemic shutdowns, are struggling to meet the latest need even as federal programs provide less food to distribute, grocery store donations wane, and cash gifts don’t go nearly as far,” the AP reported.
For Elizabeth Jimenez, a member of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF), the number of people relying on food bank assistance has increased dramatically: “We try to help families as much as we can. Before, we only saw older people; now it is families, also older people and people with disabilities; we have definitely seen an increase.”
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The challenge seems to have intensified in the summer, and many food bank workers are not confident they can keep up with the growing demand as hundreds of families attend drop-off points.
According to a spokeswoman for the NGO Feeding America, the number of food kits distributed grew by 78% compared to the previous year. Twelve months ago, the foundation delivered food packages to about 2 396 families per week; currently, it has 4 271 packages.
Growing misery in the U.S. drives thousands to food banks
At Feeding America’s largest food bank in Houston, up to 1 million pounds of food were distributed daily during the pandemic’s peak. Although this figure declined after recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, it has risen again in recent months, and today the food bank distributes up to 610 000 pounds of food daily.
Parallel to inflation, the misery index — which measures the relationship between price indexes and unemployment after a steep decline following the end of the pandemic— soared again and now exceeds the levels it reached during the 2008 crisis.
Rising housing prices have left some Americans to choose between paying rent or eating. According to data from real estate firm Zillow’s Observed Rent Index, nationwide, the median rent cost rose 15.9% in the last twelve months. Lease prices grew at their fastest pace since 1986.
Recent Gallup polls have recorded that as many as 3% of Americans today are afraid of becoming homeless or facing hunger shortly.
For many families, Biden’s transitory inflation was a tremendous blow to their finances, security, and food. Meanwhile, food banks continue their work to feed the thousands of hungry mouths that line their doors daily.