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Long lines form at food banks across country ahead of Thanksgiving

The Hill logo The Hill 11/24/2020 John Bowden
a person holding a sign: Long lines form at food banks across country ahead of Thanksgiving © Getty Images Long lines form at food banks across country ahead of Thanksgiving

Americans are lining up in historic numbers at food banks across the country this week as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates levels of food insecurity for millions of people.

As the Thanksgiving holiday draws closer, news reports from states around the U.S. indicate that more Americans face food insecurity now than at any time in recent decades.

Video obtained by CNN on Tuesday from the Meadowlands entertainment complex in New Jersey showed residents waiting for several hours to obtain prepackaged boxes of meals for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"If it wasn't for this place, we wouldn't know where we would get our food," one distraught woman told CNN of the food bank in East Rutherford, N.J.

A report from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank indicated that as many as 1 in 4 households in the state was facing food insecurity, while food banks in the state faced an increase in demand of roughly 26 percent.

"I don't think we're going to get through this unless Congress approves another COVID-19 relief bill," the food bank's executive director told The Providence Journal.

In San Jose, Calif., the program manager of CityTeam, a local charity, told news station KTVU 2 that demand for food assistance from city residents had more than tripled over the course of 2020.

"We're on track to serve about 5,000, maybe more," in November as part of their annual Thanksgiving food giveaway, Hermie Smit told KTVU 2.

"We're serving 70 percent more people. 40 percent of the people who are coming have never ever looked for food assistance before. So it's been staggering," added Willy Elliott-McCrea, CEO of the Second Harvest Santa Cruz County charity.

Food bank officials in Dallas, Texas, have also noticed a staggering increase in demand for food assistance. North Texas Food Bank representatives told the Dallas Morning News that they handed out roughly 8,500 meals to local families during a giveaway on Saturday that in years past has seen fewer than 1,000 show up for donations.

"We know that people need food or they wouldn't be in line," said Trisha Cunningham, CEO of the food bank. "We want to make sure anyone that needs food has access to it."

Congress has battled for months over the possibility of a second major round of COVID-19 stimulus, prospects for which look dim in the remaining days of 2020 as negotiations on the issue appear to have stalled completely.

The Department of Agriculture moved last month to include a letter from President Trump in federal food aid boxes distributed to millions nationwide in which the president takes credit for "sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America" during the pandemic, a move that drew intense criticism from House Democrats.

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