As Donald Trump prepares to pardon his final turkeys, tens of thousands of Americans will wonder if they’ll be able to have Thanksgiving dinner at all. The economic crisis that the Trump administration and Senate Republicans have allowed to persist has spawned all manner of tragedies — among them is a hunger crisis, and as cases of coronavirus increase and the holidays approach, the problem shows little improvement. New research from the Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution finds that in the month of October, nearly one in ten parents with children ages 5 and younger said their families did not have enough to eat and that they did not have enough money to buy food.
That figure is a slight improvement over the summer, reports Brookings economics studies fellow Lauren Bauer. But there isn’t much reason to celebrate. The rate of food insecurity experienced by all households is still higher than it was in 2019 — and higher than it was during the recession of 2008. Hunger is concentrated in households with children and especially in low-income households with children, which tracks with other underlying trends. As Bauer notes, households in this latter category are “more likely to have lost earned income” because of the events of this year.
There are some safety-net programs in place to mitigate food insecurity, and disbursement rates are another indication that circumstances remain dire. Families are using programs like SNAP, Pandemic EBT, and WIC, which services women with children under the age of 5, at higher rates than normal, and rates increased again during September through October of this year. From this we can extrapolate a few things: The aid that families currently receive is helping, but it’s not enough to make up for lost income, and a new round of stimulus funds ought to be a priority for everyone in Washington. Sustained hunger in childhood can have profound and long-lasting effects on a person’s physical and psychological development. Bauer suggests extending Pandemic EBT for an additional school year, and increasing SNAP payments by 15 percent with a young-child multiplier.
But families also need cash — and fast. Restrictions on movement, work and school likely aren’t ending soon, which means that households will continue to suffer if they aren’t compensated for lost income. Winter will be long, and the spring is uncertain. The coronavirus will still be with us and — if lawmakers don’t act — so will hunger.