April V. Taylor
The United States is generally thought of as the country who hands out food aid to Third World countries across the globe, but what many fail to realize is the growing numbers of Americans who are forced to rely on food donations in order to avoid going hungry. A recent USA Today article points out that a recent Feeding America study found that some 46 million families in the United States depend on food pantries and meal service programs to make sure they do not go hungry.
This amounts to 1 in 7 Americans, and military families are hit even harder with 1 in 4 of them needing help feeding themselves. As Feeding America’s chief executive officer Bob Aiken states, “The results are alarming…Hunger exists in literally every county in America. It’s an urban problem, it’s a suburban problem, and it’s a rural problem.”
One of the points made by those who work on the front lines is that the stereotypes about who is forced to access food assistance programs are skewed. Linda Patterson, who runs a Lorton Community Action Center, states, “The people who come here are hard workers. They are employed. They are school bus drivers, the lab techs in doctors offices, receptionists, the janitors who clean the floor of your children’s school. They just can’t make ends meet because some kind of crisis has hit them.”
Statistics that highlight who accesses food assistance services are broken up as follows:
– 43% are white, 26% are black, 20% are Hispanic, and 11% identify as some other race.
– 33% of households have at least one person who has been diagnosed with diabetes.
– 65% of households have a minor under 18 or a senior over 60.
The recent cut in food stamp assistance in November 2013 has caused a surge in the number of Americans needing food assistance according to USA Today. As more people are forced to rely on food banks for long periods of time, some of chosen to offer healthier options in an attempt to help ward of preventable diseases that come with eating less healthy, cheap processed foods. Food bank worker Allison Majewski states, “The people who come to us for help are coming more regularly. We aren’t a one-time emergency stop anymore. We are a staple for them, so it’s very important that we make…health foods available.”