NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — As the Dow hits a record high and the economy begins to shake off the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, clear signs remain that financial recovery for many Americans remains a long way off.
Unemployment claims are at record levels and lines at the food banks continue to grow, with millions relying on the kindness of strangers to provide their Thanksgiving meal. According to the latest survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, less than half of American households with children feel “very confident” about their ability to afford food for the next month, with families of color reporting the greatest impact.
One in 8 Americans reported they didn’t have enough food to eat in the past week, “sometimes” of “often,” a figure that equates to nearly 26 million adults, vastly higher than before the pandemic.
It’s a reality that’s visible daily on the streets of America’s largest city.
At Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in Manhattan, the line stretches around the block in two directions. People wait in the cold for hours. Volunteers say it’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen— and some of them have been around for decades.
Chief Operating Officer Michael Ottley tells NewsNation that in a normal week they’d serve 5 thousand meals here, which is a lot. Last week they served 40 thousand, which puts Holy Apostles on track for a million meals this year— nearly three times what they did a year ago.
Ottley looks at the line with a mix of reverence and awe.
“The uncertainty of where they’re gonna get their next meal,” he says. “That’s scary.”
At almost exactly the same time, the same scene is unfolding on the other side of the Hudson in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where a line of cars stretches a mile long outside the Meadowlands YMCA.
It’s happening in Brooklyn and Queens and Staten Island, where Flora Aclan runs the food program at the Christian Pentecostal Church.
“We give everything that we have,” she says. “And God gives strength to all of us.”
Pallets of food arrive at the food bank early Monday morning. People come for it on Tuesday and it’s gone by Wednesday, when the next shipment arrives.
“This place is a blessing— it really, really helps,” says one woman waiting in line. “Without this place, there would be many nights when we wouldn’t have food.”
While some critics say the city and state stepped-in too late with too little aid, $25-million dollars has been invested into the ‘Nourish New York’ initiative, through which the state, purchased more than 16 million pounds of meat, dairy and produce directly from farmers, delivering it to those in need.
“You have people in New York who are going hungry and can’t pay for enough food,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “Tremendous demand on food banks. So we’ve been putting the two together.”
A study released last month found 2 million New Yorkers facing food insecurity, up from 1.2 million last year and almost certain to rise through the end of 2020.
At the food banks, workers say the growing lines tell them how many people were living right on the edge of poverty before the pandemic pushed them over.
“It’s a sad state to see that in America we have people that, even though our pantry opens at 1:30, people that start standing in line at 7 or before to get their place,” Michael Ottley says. “That’s how desperate they are.”
To help someone in need this holiday season visit the following resources:
- City Harvest
- Citymeals on Wheels
- Catholic Charities
- City of New York
- YMCA of Greater New York
- Covenant House