America is crashing into a depression. In just two weeks, 10 million people have claimed unemployment benefits. This has put unprecedented stress on food bank networks across the country, a new investigation via The Guardian shows.
The US labor market is in free fall – the increasing lockdowns across major US metropolitan areas have forced millions of people out of work and into a hunger crisis.
The Guardian shows demand for food aid in some regions of the country has surged eightfold in recent weeks as RealInvestmentAdvice.com’s Lance Roberts warns the unemployment rates in the US could spike to levels not seen since the “Great Depression,” or about 15-20% in the second quarter.
The National Guard has been deployed for a variety of reasons: One is to support local area hospital systems, another is to maintain social order, and now soldiers in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Phoenix have supported food banks to ensure shortages do not materialize, mostly because that would trigger social unrest among the working poor.
“I’ve been in this business over 30 years, and nothing compares to what we’re seeing now. Not even when the steel mills closed down did we see increased demand like this,” said Sheila Christopher, director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, which represents 18 food banks across 67 counties.
The Guardian provides a snapshot of the unprecedented demand hitting food banks:
- In Amherst, home to the University of Massachusetts’ largest campus, the pantry distributed 849% more food in March compared with the previous year. The second-largest increase in western Massachusetts was 748% at the Pittsfield Salvation Army pantry.
- The Grace Klein community food pantry in Jefferson county, which has the largest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Alabama, provided 5,076 individuals with food boxes last week – a 90% increase on the previous week.
- In southern Arizona, demand has doubled, with pantries supplying groceries to 4,000 households every day – double the number supplied in March 2019. “We saw an increase during the federal government shutdown but nothing as rapid, massive or overwhelming as this,” said Michael McDonald, CEO of the Community Food Bank of South Arizona.