National Geographic Magazine (Published November 24, 2020)
With the holidays nearing, miles-long food lines are a hint at how hunger in America could soon surpass the peak of the 2007 recession.
Early one morning in mid-November, Trisha Cunningham, the president of North Texas Food Bank, arrived at a sprawling fairground in southern Dallas that hosts the annual Texas State Fair. Four lines of cars snaked for miles, from the entrance toward the skyscrapers downtown. Some of the drivers had arrived the night before and slept in their cars, waiting for a box of food that would help get them through Thanksgiving.
By the end of this year, more than 50 million people could experience food insecurity, according to Feeding America, the country’s largest hunger-relief organization. That’s one in six Americans and one in four children—nearly a 50 percent increase from 2019. A Northwestern University study in June found that food needs had doubled nationally, and tripled for households with children. The pandemic has laid bare how many people are one paycheck or medical bill away from hunger.