Feeding America at Thanksgiving: Miles-long lines at food banks and soup kitchens as 25m struggled with hunger this week

More than 25 million Americans reported not having enough food to eat in the past week

Matt Mathers@MattEm90
Thursday 26 November 2020 19:25
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Large queue forms at Phoenix food bank

Millions of Americans will spend this Thanksgiving having struggled to put food on the table after the Covid-19 pandemic has left hundreds of thousands of people unemployed and without financial assistance to fill the gap.

More than 25 million Americans reported not having enough to eat in the past week, according to US census data. Food charities said that they were facing record demand in the lead-up to Thanksgiving.

More than one in ten US households with children received free groceries or a free meal over a seven-day period, according to a survey earlier this month reported by US Census.

Some 778,000 people filed for unemployment benefits in the past week - three times more than in 2019, MSNBC reported. Unemployment checks have stopped for many Americans still in dire need. 

Across the country, the pressure that the pandemic has placed on Americans was evident in the miles-long queues that formed from state to state.

An estimated 6,000 families in north Texas were given free ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal last Friday. The Dallas food bank gives away more than 600,000 pounds food in the past weekend, and more than 7,000 turkeys.

A two-mile queue of cars formed at St Mary's Food Bank in Phoenix, Arizona when food distribution began on Monday.

People receive parcels at the Food Bank Community Kitchen in New York on Thanksgiving Eve

"We've seen people touching and pointing to their chests, saying thank you for what's going on and that really makes you feel good," Jerry Brown, a spokesperson for the food bank, told Arizona Central.

In New York, long queues formed outside the Food Bank Community Kitchen on Tuesday. One in six children struggles with hunger in the city, according to Feeding America.

Food Bank Community Kitchen founder and CEO Leslie Gordon said around two million New Yorkers would go hungry this holiday, up from 500,000 in previous years.  

“It’s people who never thought they would find themselves standing on line for food to feed themselves and their families,” she told the New York Post.

A staff member at Food Bank of the Rockies loads boxes of food in their warehouse to be distributed to people in need ahead of Thanksgiving in Denver

“Some of these folks are donors to Food Bank — people who used to write checks to support our work, and now they are on line.”

In northern New Mexico, officials at The Food Bank said that along with unemployment, the need for emergency food assistance has increased during the pandemic. The Food Bank and its nonprofit partners moved about 7.8 million pounds of food in the first nine months of the year.

The city of Albuquerque reported Wednesday that it has served more than 500,000 meals to older people since March, including Thanksgiving lunches that were distributed this week. 

Cars queue up at St Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix,  Arizona on Wednesday

Vice president-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff made a stop at Central Kitchen in Washington DC on Wednesday to highlight the issue. 

Mike Curtin, the CEO of DC Central Kitchen, said the group expects to serve 10,000 meals on Thanksgiving Day alone.

Mr Emhoff said food insecurity was a huge issue that he and his wife encountered while on the campaign trail during the election. The first ever “First Dude” said that food insecurity will be one of his causes when his wife takes office in January.

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