Thanksgiving: Caring people around the country help those in need
Charities, governors, police and caring people around the country are helping those in need for Thanksgiving.
CINCINNATI, Ohio — A little more than a week before Thanksgiving, a line formed outside the Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati. The pantry hadn’t opened, yet the temperature was 42 degrees.
“Are you here for food?” customers were asked when walked in.
The answer was consistent: “Yes.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, the food bank provided food to about 100 to 125 people a day. Recently, they served 374 on a single day.
For some in line, this was new: An experience and embarrassment they didn’t want to discuss. For others, it was a monthly trip, part of their survival.
Marquette Brant was allowed 35 pounds of groceries, but she took less.
She works at Sam’s Club, but in March, her hours were cut. In May, she came to the food bank for the first time.
While waiting in line, Brant stood under a picture with bold, white letters that said “Hope.” For her, hope is the tuna and noodles she had for dinner last night, made with groceries she received from the food bank.
It’s a story playing out across the nation this Thanksgiving: More Americans are in need of help to avoid going hungry amid the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Feeding America analysis estimates that 15 million more people will live in food insecure homes in the U.S. this year, as compared to pre-pandemic estimates.
“Food banks have consistently seen a 60 percent increase in demand compared to this time last year, and continue to require more food and resources to provide to people in need,” the organization said in a release days before Thanksgiving.
U.S. Census Data released in the week before Thanksgiving reports about 12% of adults living in American households with children received free groceries or a free meal the previous week, according to a survey conducted between Oct. 28 and Nov. 9.
In some regions of the country, the situation appears to be even worse.
About one out of every four households in Rhode Island struggled over the summer to put food on the table, according to a report released Monday.
Despite federal assistance, 25% of households in the state were worried about having adequate food, up from 9.1% last year and the highest level of food insecurity in Rhode Island in 20 years, according to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank’s annual Status Report on Hunger. That survey also found food insecurity caused by the pandemic has hit families of color particularly hard.
Across the nation, food charities have reported record demand ahead of Thanksgiving.
In Arizona, a two-mile line of cars waited to receive food from St. Mary’s Food Bank when holiday distribution started at 8 a.m. in Phoenix on Monday.
Jerry Brown, a spokesperson for the food bank, said the record-breaking number of people would be served in a contactless delivery system that works like “a NASCAR pitstop.”
The demand “shows that a lot of people who used to be donors and volunteers are now in these cars getting food,” Brown said.
In Ohio, the state’s Army National Guard has helped with food distribution in the Akron-Canton region. During a recent drive-through distribution before Thanksgiving, the line of cars stretched for a mile.
Hundreds of people slept, listened to the radio, talked with passengers, or played with their phones and waited. Some of them had been there for more than four hours.
In rural California, food banks are dealing with unprecedented demand as at least one braces for a “food cliff” that could leave it unable to serve clients heading into the new year.
“The food cliff is looming,” said Nicole Celaya, executive director of Tulare County FoodLink. “The food system hasn’t done a very good job of meeting the increased need. As COVID numbers continue to rise, it’s going to get worse.”
In Petal, Mississippi, those donations are needed.
The Petal Children’s Task Force gave away 325 boxes of Thanksgiving food to residents — 75 more boxes than last year, according to Demaris Lee, Petal Children’s Task Force executive director.
“We’ve got a lot of people who have been cut in hours, some that have lost their jobs, and they come to us not wanting to ask for food, but they have to,” Lee said. “That’s what we are here for.”
But the organization is dependent on donations to provide help to those in need.
“We need food,” Lee, said. “We can use all kinds of food. We have a cooler. We have a freezer.”
Contributing: Brooke Newman and Emily Wilder, Arizona Republic; Eric Marotta, Akron Beacon Journal; Joshua Yeager, Visalia Times-Delta; Cam Bonelli, Hattiesburg American; The Associated Press