With the news that unemployment has reached 8.1% in the United States, the nation’s food banks are putting out an urgent call for donations to help deal with the increased demand for their services. The number of participants in the Supplemental Nutrition, formerly known as food stamps, program is up 27.5%, while demand at food banks is up 30% from last year.
“These are truly staggering and frightening figures,” said Vicki Escarra, President and CEO of Feeding America. “Just three months ago we released a new survey that showed that the 200 food banks we serve are experiencing an average increase in demand of more than 30 percent in the past year. Unemployment was cited as the primary factor for the increased demand. Many Americans are relying on food banks for assistance while they are waiting for their unemployment or SNAP benefits to arrive. Our food banks tell us they simply cannot provide enough food to all of the people who need help. A terrible situation has just become much worse.”
Despite the fact that corporate America and the Obama administration have both stepped up their aid efforts, food banks are still facing a daunting challenge, as growing numbers of Americans are requiring their services. I think that stories such as this one provide a stark reminder about who is really hurt the most by an economic downturn. Every day we see more stories about Wall Street’s suffering due to this recession, but the unreported story that doesn’t get the headlines is the story of middle class people who are falling into poverty, and the working poor, who previously were teetering on poverty, and now find themselves unable to afford food.
These are the people that the Republicans and Wall Street are attacking when they complain about the budget deficit, or the increase in government spending. The people who need help the most are the ones who are least talked about. They are the person who makes your food, or stocks the shelves at the grocery store. They are the retail worker whose store has closed. They are the elderly and disabled who subsist on a fixed income. These aren’t bad people. They are people for whom even the good times are a struggle, but bad times are devastating.