Thanksgiving tends to make people think about hunger. Food pantries report a spike in volunteering around the holidays, donations generally go up, and rich people are photographed wearing hairnets and dishing out mashed potatoes.
But when interest dries up, people stay hungry. This past September, nearly a third of the food pantries and soup kitchens in New York City reported that they had turned people away. They cited two reasons: either they weren’t able to prepare nutritious enough meals, or they simply ran out of food altogether.
According to the latest report from the Food Bank of New York City, 42% of pantries across the city also said they had to reduce the number of meals they packed into bags for people to take home with them, for the same reason: there just wasn’t enough food to go around. And you can see the same pattern of demand in reports from food pantries across the country.
The math behind this crisis is pretty simple—and brutal. In 2013, a set of automatic reductions to a federal food assistance program called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) left people with less money to spend on food. An additional round of cuts to the program in 2014 was one of the only things Democrats and Republicans actually agreed on that year.
This is what the cycle of hunger looks like in the United States, and with president-elect Donald Trump heading to the White House in January and House Speaker Paul Ryan pulling the strings on the federal budget, further reductions to food assistance are on the agenda. Read more.