by James Fitzgerald, Corey’s Digs:
Food lines on a scale not seen since the Great Depression are springing up across America, and official unemployment rolls suggest 22 million people are out of work, as pandemic restrictions hit small businesses and workforces of all kinds.
The much mooted “Dark Winter” of Covid-19 is here, if media reports are to be believed. Medical pundits predicted in this second wave as early as February, suggesting that it was going to be a multi-year pandemic. Their bravado and cynicism seemed premeditated when other factors are taken into consideration: the “viral strain” has yet to be identified specifically and the PCR-led statistics are inherently flawed, given the very high false/positive rates of the test. The lockdowns, protests, mask mandates and variable and contradictory messages from health bodies, including the World Health Organization, have only added to public confusion and distress. Food lines are now a visible manifestation of the malaise and shuttered response to an “illness” that could have been mitigated by early intervention protocols, such as hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) zinc and azithromycin.
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By Thanksgiving, millions of Americans were relying on food banks as the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic reached wallets. In typical dramatic and dystopian style, CNN claimed last week that 50 million Americans would go hungry this year and that it would take eight billion meals to feed them.
Many people spent their small stimulus check on a mortgage or utility payments long ago, with 6.6 percent of mortgages now in delinquency. Critics of the Trump administration say he has not allowed Congress to distribute more financial aid, while Democrats continue to push stay-at-home orders and other mitigation measures.
The congressional bailout that has been bolstering mortgages and extending unemployment runs out at the end of December, putting pressure on lawmakers to pass another relief package.
One of President Trump’s election campaign strategies was to assert that Joe Biden wanted to shut down the economy — something that would disproportionately harm low-income workers. In response, Biden has routinely declared that he would be against such a move.
“I am not going to shut down the economy, period,” Biden told reporters last week. “I’m going to shut down the virus.”
Poor Americans have been disproportionately harmed by the “virus”, and the country is experiencing a K-shaped recovery in which wealthy people are prospering while jobless claims increase. Indeed, investors signaled their optimism last week, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 400 points to surpass 30,000 for the first time in history.
Greg McBride, an analyst at financial advisor Bankrate, expressed surprise at the lift, after months of the economic turmoil caused by Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns.
“What completely is a surprise is the fact that we’ve had this massive pandemic that’s thrown tens of millions of Americans out of work, that saw a 34 percent decline in the market from mid-February to late March, and despite all that, the market has rebounded,” he told CBN News.
In several states, cars can be seen waiting by the hundreds in free food lines. Experts were reported as saying that there was more hunger in the US now than at any point since 1998, when the Census Bureau started collecting comparable data.
In some cases, the handouts have been ill-conceived: a huge food giveaway in Houston that involved free turkeys was met by incredulity because many people lacked the facilities to cook them. Mayor Sylvester Turner told CNN: “That was the most disheartening aspect” of the Thanksgiving distribution program.
According to one estimate by researchers at Northwestern University, food insecurity more than doubled as a result of the economic crisis brought on by actions over the pandemic, hitting as many as 23 percent of households this year.
One in nine people in the US used food stamps in 2019, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits vary depending on individual needs, but the average SNAP benefit for each member of a household was $129 per month in fiscal year 2019.
Due to Covid-19, demand for the SNAP program has been growing. In March, when the Families First Act passed as part of the government’s emergency response to the pandemic, the maximum benefit for SNAP recipients was temporarily expanded 40 percent. According to the New York Times, SNAP grew by 17 percent from February 2020 to May 2020, three times faster than in any previous three-month period.
“About 40 percent of the people who are turning to us for help have never before relied upon the charitable food system,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “Unfortunately, the food crisis persists.”
States such as California, New York, Wisconsin, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and South Carolina, have reported long lines at their food banks, with people waiting hours to pick up items. In Los Angeles, volunteers said that about 1,000 people lined up outside a food bank on a recent Saturday. Austin, Texas, witnessed about 1,400 cars lined up outside one food bank during the last big handout prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.
The North American meat industry has been forced to implement new protocols and procedures to protect its workforce from the alleged threats posed by the pandemic. “The meat and poultry industry remains vigilant and companies continue to invest, more than $1 billion so far, in significant changes and improvements regarding Covid-19 prevention and control practices to protect the men and women who work in their facilities,” Sarah Little of the North American Meat Institute told Corey’s Digs.
“Using data collected by the FERN and NY Times, positive cases associated with meat packing have gone down even when cases across the country have gone up,” she said.
These hardships of course stretch beyond the US. According to the United Nations World Food Program, the global pandemic could double the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity, from 135 million in 2019 to 265 million in 2020.