Published December 3, 2020 / Updated February 4, 2021
Every day, more families face the reality of losing the roof over their heads, an inability to keep the lights on, or put food in their bellies.
In 2019, 10.5% of all US families were food insecure. Having food security means that you and your family have enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. It means that breakfast is on the table in the morning before school, there is food in your lunchbox, and a hot meal at night. It means not having to look your loved one in the eye and say that there is nothing to eat. For most of America, it is a nightmare we will never face. But, for millions of families, it is one from which it feels almost impossible to wake.
Prior to COVID, an estimated 13.7 million families (35 million individuals) regularly went to sleep hungry. In 2020, that number has more than doubled as 1 in every 4 families does not have enough food to eat. In the most plentiful nation in the world, that is a horrific number. What these numbers do not tell you is that families of color are twice as likely to face food insecurity than other families. Coupled with POC being more likely to be stricken with the virus, families of color are facing an assault from all sides.
As the pandemic rages around the world, American businesses are shuttering at an astonishing rate. According to CNN, 60% of all businesses that have closed because of the pandemic will never reopen. You might think that the closure of a small business is not that big of a deal--you would be wrong. In a time when factories have relocated overseas, and jobs have been outsourced around the globe, small, local businesses are the life-blood of our communities. Gone are the local pizza restaurants, ice cream parlors, cleaning services, and hair salons, as well as the owners dream of independent financial security and self-empowerment. It also means that the family of each business owner and their employees is now one step closer to feeling hunger’s growl.
In the days since the election, our news cycles have been overflowing with talk of one lawsuit or another, in one failed attempt after another, (Trump is currently 1 for 40 denied or dismissed lawsuits) to undo and undermine America’s vote. During that same time, the current administration has essentially ignored what is happening to our country. The man at the top cares nothing for the 270,000 who are dead, the families left behind, and the millions who are stricken by a virus that knows no limits. Our news programming has been replete with election news in one state or another. Anchors endlessly debating the merits--or lack thereof as the case has been--of the most recent lawsuit, the most recent tweet from on high. Until today.
This week, we began anew the sound bites and bickering that our representatives have engaged in as they arm wrestle over another round of Covid relief. It has been months since they last spoke. We find ourselves watching yet another press conference by Majority Leader McConnell wherein he shows us--for the upteenth time--how very little he actually cares about the American people and how much value he places on winning, at all costs. And, that cost is high. As they haggle over what relief to extend it is apparent that the hypocrisy from “leaders” on the Hill knows no bounds. In 2017, when the GOP gave millions in tax breaks to the wealthy, they ratcheted the national debt up to more than a trillion dollars. Now, as they bicker over how much help to give American families who are quite literally dying, they have the audacity to put a price point on that relief, stating that the GOP will not accept a package that adds a trillion dollars to the national debt. The willingness to print more money only goes so far and that distance is measured by the depth of their own pockets. It is crystal clear how much they believe a human life is worth and that their pro-life stance changes at the flip of a coin.
Every day, more families face the reality of losing the roof over their heads, an inability to keep the lights on, or put food in their bellies. Instances of domestic violence are skyrocketing and our mental health is deteriorating after 9 months of being cooped up in our homes. But, by all means, Congress should remain entrenched while our neighbors and families suffer and die. It is oftentimes what they do best.
Individuals who have never had to rely on a food bank are finding themselves without alternatives as they struggle to navigate the pandemic and the alternate reality in which we find ourselves. Our nation's food banks are struggling to keep up with the demand. The line of cars goes for miles as people wait, hoping that there will be something left in the cupboard when it is finally their turn. And, whether or not that cupboard is empty depends upon a complicated network of donations, evolving supply chains, and deliveries that would be challenging under the best of circumstances. The difficulties increase exponentially when you factor in a pandemic, social distancing, and the closure of businesses that would otherwise have been buying what is now a surplus of produce, dairy, and meat. Additionally, many food banks lack the cold storage equipment that is needed to preserve the food they are receiving.
Getting food into the hands of the needy is a complicated and arduous process. And, while the need that food banks serve, is tremendous, there are other ways in which to put food in the mouths of the hungry. One of these alternatives is to lobby our legislators to support SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program administered by the Department of Agriculture.
Because there are no food supply chains or refrigeration challenges to deal with, SNAP benefits are a far more efficient way to meet the needs of our hungry nation. This program feeds more families than all of the food banks in the Feeding America network combined by putting cash into the hands of needy families who then have the freedom to buy what they need when they need it. An added benefit is that the program participants are putting money into the local economy which in turn has the potential to help the small businesses that are being forced to permanently close every day.
What You Can Do
If you or a loved one has an immediate need for food, send food to 50409. We will provide you with the information for food banks in your area and/or how to apply for SNAP benefits.
You can also send congress to 50409 and lobby your legislator to increase the amount of SNAP benefits that each family can receive.
There are those of us who are lucky. We can work from home or not at all. Our refrigerators are full and the roof over our heads remains. We know, however, that our circumstances can change at any moment. So, while we can, we should help. You never know when the hand reaching for a life preserver will be your own. If you have a few dollars to spare, or time on your hands, consider donating to a local food bank or even volunteering.