Unemployment is down. But even though more Americans are working, they are increasingly dependent on food banks for additional support. And the system – thanks to a reduction in food stamps approved by Congress – is failing them.
Whether it’s New York City, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Colorado or elsewhere, people are encountering empty shelves when they seek assistance from local food banks. Low-wage workers are turning for help because too many of them no longer receive government assistance that was helping them keep food on their tables.
Capitol Hill imposed cuts in food stamps twice since November 2013, and several states joined in earlier this year when they too sliced benefits. At the time, food stamp opponents said the non-profit sector would be able to pick up the slack. But they haven’t, and millions of hardworking Americans are paying the price.
In the nation’s largest city, for instance, the country’s biggest food bank announced late last month that it is struggling to keep up with an unprecedented hunger emergency. Food Bank for New York City found that 80 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens in the city reported an increase in the number of visitors in September 2014 compared to a year earlier, with 18.1 percent reporting the amount of visitors had grown by more than half.
In addition, the same report found that 60 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens had run out of food, or particular types of food, needed to make adequate meals or pantry bags last September, while 37 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens had turned away people in the same month because of inadequate supplies.
Families are feeling the pinch. With most Walmart workers making less than $25,000 a year, for example, many have come to rely on food stamps or food banks to help provide for their families. But increasingly, that is not an option for thousands of them.
That’s no way to be entering the holiday season, or any season for that matter. Hunger is a real problem year-round, but it is clear government on all levels is not doing enough to address it. And despite the picture some might like to draw, it is low-wage working families that are paying the biggest price for it.
A real solution to the problem is needed. It begins in the nation’s capital and state capitals from coast to coast. Elected officials cannot accept that working families should be going without food on a daily basis anymore. As a country, we can do better.