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COVID-19

Food programs see a huge increase in need during the pandemic

Mitchell Hartman Nov 25, 2020
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People receive bags of food, including turkeys, at a Thanksgiving food distribution on Nov. 20 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
COVID-19

Food programs see a huge increase in need during the pandemic

Mitchell Hartman Nov 25, 2020
Heard on:
People receive bags of food, including turkeys, at a Thanksgiving food distribution on Nov. 20 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

This Thanksgiving holiday is different from last year in so many ways: people not traveling, families not getting together, or perhaps only seeing each other on shared screens. Many Americans are cutting back on celebrations of all kinds, with millions out of work. Some who’ve lost work and income will have less to eat this Thanksgiving.

And increased demand is impacting food banks and feeding programs.

Jacobsen Valentine runs Feed the Mass in Portland, Oregon. Since early in the pandemic, the group’s been taking donations of unsold food from places like Costco and Amazon and preparing free meals for people in need.

“We started out doing about 150 every weekend, and now we’re up to about close to 1,000 a day,” he said.

Nationwide, demand for food assistance has soared, said Katie Fitzgerald at Feeding America, an umbrella group for food banks.

“The 200 Feeding America food banks have consistently reported about 60% more people showing up at food distributions than before the pandemic,” she said.

Heading into winter, Fitzgerald predicts food insecurity will worsen. Meanwhile, she said, food banks face a decline in supply, as two federal programs that provide food from U.S. farmers are set to expire.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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