Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
~ from "The New Colossus", the poem engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
Since 2006, the number of Americans receiving aid from food pantries and similar services is up almost 50%, according to Feeding America.
With rising food prices, stagnant wages and cuts to benefit programs, the number of people who rely on food banks and soup kitchens has been on the rise. And the recent cuts to food stamps are prompting even more families and individuals to turn to the local food banks to pick up the slack.
The Great Recession had already stretched the nation's food banks' ability to help the 15%
of all Americans who are considered "food insecure," according to an
Agriculture Department report.
And many of those people do not use food stamps.
Even the most robust food banks aren't able to fill the need, a fact that was true even before the recent food stamp cuts. By Feeding America's estimate, the benefit cuts will cost 1.9 million meals for low-income Americans --- more than half the number of meals the organization distributes in a given year.
Even at Washington, D.C.'s Capital Area Food Bank, organizers know they can't feed everybody who is hungry, where almost one in four residents is on food stamps. In preparation for the holidays, the food bank bought 50% more food this month than it did in October --- and it's still not enough.
Recent cuts to food stamps (SNAP), which have been in effect for less than 30 days, have families already feeling the impact and struggling to put dinner on the table. As a result, a growing number of families across the country are now turning to local food banks to keep basic staples like cereal and rice in their pantries.
A survey by the Food Bank for New York City says that nearly half of their facilities were “forced to turn visitors away”, with 83 percent blaming a lack of food. Despite their best efforts, they know they can’t feed everyone that is hungry this holiday season, even before low-income Americans had lost their SNAP benefits. At the same time, the NYC food bank said that 247 of its partners had closed their food banks since 2007.
Leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday this year, food banks across the nation are reporting shortages. As the New York Times notes, food pantries across the nation have been “wiped out” by a recent spike in demand, attributed to the cuts to food assistance programs. They are struggling to keep their shelves stocked for families who depend on them, and worried what will happen after the holidays, when food donations to the pantry drop, but while the need of local families does not.
And the GOP wants far greater cuts to food stamps in the ongoing negotiations for a new farm bill, while also keeping subsidies in tact for wealthy farm corporations. (Read: The Farm Bill: Rich Farmers vs. Hungry People)