Source: Food Gatherers’ Website“Scenes of crowded food banks have provided some of the most arresting images of the pandemic and brought hunger issues a rare spotlight. A recent Census Bureau survey found that, over the previous week alone, 8.4 percent of adults said their households ‘sometimes’ lacked enough to eat and 2.3 percent said they ‘often’ did. That translates into 23 million hungry adults, plus millions of children.” — (source)
The pandemic made many of the problems of our society more obvious and more pressing than they were before last year. Food insecurity, in particular, has been an issue here in America for a long time, and the large-scale loss of jobs a year ago definitely made it much worse and also more visible. Who doesn’t recall the photos of long lines of cars queued up to receive food boxes and other help from a variety of organizations. Throughout the year, I have been following both the national problems and the actions of Food Gatherers, the food bank in Ann Arbor where I live, and I wanted to explore what’s happening now.
Several changes in the national situation recently have offered a cause for optimism:
At the moment, there is a better outlook for employment. Jobless claims were at a pandemic-era low at the end of March. Specifically: “The unemployment rate edged down to 6.0 percent in March. The rate is down considerably from its recent high in April 2020 but is 2.5 percentage points higher than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. The number of unemployed persons, at 9.7 million, continued to trend down in March but is 4.0 million higher than in February 2020. (source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Coming soon or already in place: better benefits and direct help from the federal government are being enacted into law. The New York Times reports: “With more than one in 10 households reporting that they lack enough to eat, the Biden administration is accelerating a vast campaign of hunger relief that will temporarily increase assistance by tens of billions of dollars and set the stage for what officials envision as lasting expansions of aid.” (source)
Throughout the past very difficult year, charitable organizations have been improving their organizations and distributing more food to those in need —“The people who run America’s charitable food banks take pride in what they’ve accomplished over the past year, and the numbers justify it: They distributed roughly 50 percent more food in 2020 compared with 2019, a considerable portion to first-time visitors. They served millions of people even as they dealt with supply-chain interruptions and health risks for their volunteers and employees.” (source)
Although there is a resurgence of coronavirus cases in Michigan, and a “fourth wave” of infections may be underway, the vaccination programs throughout the country are also a cause for optimism. As more people become able to go to work, to eat in restaurants, and to enjoy a more normal life, and as children and students of all ages return to school, the root causes of increased food insecurity may become less drastic, and the new approaches to the general well-being of Americans may help solve some of our problems.
I wrote about some of this a few weeks ago, and I wanted to update that post here. My previous post: https://maefood.blogspot.com/2021/03/a-year-of-feeding-those-in-need.html
There are still many problems with the rest of the world — especially the fact that distribution of vaccine is not anywhere near as effective elsewhere, and the disease is still spreading. The challenges facing any approach to world hunger are drastic, and the changes needed globally are frightening. I can’t begin to grasp the scope of what’s needed globally. We have to face the consequences of climate change and destruction of resources — two potential causes of increasing poverty and unimaginable want. As we also have to face incredible public health problems.
blog post © 2021 mae sander