Mass handouts of essential goods attract hundred of families as Coronavirus leaves millions unemployed across the country
Last week Fair Park, a Dallas based food bank, was faced with thousands of people at their latest food drive. These are yet more victims of the United States’ ongoing economic crisis. Fair Park is believed to have handed out 10,000 boxes of essential groceries to 1,710 families, enough to feed approximately 8,000 people. Unfortunately, the scenes in Dallas are not unique or conclusive. What is happening there, and across the country, is the result of two severe, interrelated crises.
1. Coronavirus and the Economy
At the time of writing America has suffered more from Coronavirus than any other country. Over 5.3 million cases and 16,940 deaths nationwide reflect the devastating human cost of the pandemic. Texas itself has also suffered badly, with over 500,000 cases, and 9,840 fatalities. Another alarming feature has been economic, with US unemployment surging from 3.6% in January to 14.7 in April and remaining above 10% last month.
2. Food Poverty in the United States
When I say the scenes in Dallas aren’t unique I don’t just mean they are currently happening across the US. I mean they were a part of American life long before Covid-19. Food provision organisation Feeding America claims 37 million people in the US were victims of hunger in 2018, when the unemployment rate hovered at around 4%. They now estimate over 54 million may experience food insecurity in 2020, an increase of over 45%. What is happening here is a perfect storm of food poverty, one where the economic damage caused by Coronavirus threatens to severely exacerbate an existing national tragedy.
Hold on, what about UK food banks?
Good question, further economic downturn in the UK seems inevitable. And after Chancellor Rishi Sunak is forced to phase out the government furlough scheme it is likely to worsen. To avoid a similar stress on food banks here it is important for the UK government to tread carefully.
It is also important to consider just how deeply the problem runs in the US. The UK’s food poverty issues are well documented, how in a population of over 66.5 million we require over 2000 food banks (more than the number of McDonald’s). The US meanwhile has a population of over 330.1 million, and the Feeding America program alone has 60,000 food pantries and programs, with 200 warehouse food banks.
Simply put, when a country has five times the population of the UK (which suffers from food poverty), but requires thirty times the food distribution sites there is something wrong. As the Trump administration falls under increasing scrutiny about how it is going to protect Americans it is also important to ask another question. How does it plan on feeding them?