Tammy Webber and Hannah Fingerhut, Associated Press
Oak Park, Ill. — Kate Maehr has never seen anything like it: lines stretching for blocks as people, many with children, inch forward to get boxes of food they hope will last until the next giveaway, until the next paycheck or until they can get government food assistance.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Maehr, executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “They’re finding themselves in a set of circumstances where they have no income and they also have no food, and it happened in an instant.”
In this Tuesday, May 12, 2020, photo, residents from all walks of life line up for a food giveaway sponsored by the Greater Chicago Food Depository in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood of Chicago. (Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast, AP)
The number of people seeking help from her organization and affiliated food pantries has surged 60% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down the nation’s economy and thrown tens of millions of people out of work. Across the country, worries about having enough to eat are adding to the anxiety of millions of people, according to a survey that found 37% of unemployed Americans ran out of food in the past month and 46% said they worried about running out.
Even those who are working often struggle. Two in 10 working adults said that in the past 30 days, they ran out of food before they could earn enough money to buy more. One-quarter worried that would happen.
Those results come from the second wave of the COVID Impact Survey, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Data Foundation. The survey aims to provide an ongoing assessment of the nation’s mental, physical and financial health during the pandemic.
There is no parallel in U.S. history for the suddenness or severity of the economic collapse, which has cost more than 40 million jobs since the virus struck. The nationwide unemployment rate was 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression. While many Americans believe they will be working in the coming months, unemployed Americans – those most likely to report running out of food – aren’t as optimistic.