Many people lost their jobs this year because of the pandemic, which means that many families have turned to food banks to ensure meals could be put on the table over the past couple of months. But what happens when the leading network of food banks in America predicts it will experience a massive food shortage within the next year? (Related: 8 Grocery Items That May Soon Be in Short Supply.)
Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization and nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, recently reported that it could face a deficit of up to 10 billion pounds of food between now and June 2021, which translates to about 8 billion meals. In July, the organization predicted that people will rely on its food banks for as much as 17 billion pounds of food over the next 12 months—more than three times the distribution Feeding America had last year.
In 2019, the national food insecurity rate slightly decreased. According to a new USDA report, about 10.5% of households (or 1 in 10) were unable to afford nutritious food for their family in 2019, down 0.6 percentage points from the year prior. In fact, last year has seen the lowest food insecurity rate since before the 2008 recession. But in 2020, the number of Americans dealing with hunger is skewing upward. (Check out What to Do If You Live in a Food Desert.)
Earlier this year, Feeding America estimated that as many as 54 million people in the U.S. could experience food insecurity due to the pandemic. For perspective, 35.2 million people faced hunger last year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's most recent Household Pulse Survey, which was fielded between Aug. 19 and Aug. 31, about 10% of American adults (22.3 million) reported they didn't have enough food to eat in the past week. Prior to the pandemic, 18 million American adults reported the same.
Now, food banks are concerned they won't be able to provide families with the sustenance they need to survive. Not only has a dramatic nationwide job loss contributed to major shortfalls in food banks, but the number of donations and volunteers have also both been on the decline. A survey that Feeding America conducted in the middle of September revealed that member food banks experienced an average of 56% increase in demand.
Major food assistance programs such as SNAP have also experienced shortfalls during the pandemic, which has put immense pressure on food banks to have the resources to feed millions of Americans.
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