By Beatriz Pascual Macías
Washington D.C., Nov 23 (EFE).- Skyrocketing inflation rates in the United States, where levels have hit a 30-year high, are not only impacting the country’s poorest families but also the food banks that provide them with a safety net.
A rise in the price of everyday items is piling more financial misery on those already struggling to buy food, a situation affecting an estimated 45 million people in the US, including 15 million children.
One in five children in the country is going hungry, according to Feeding America, which manages a network of 200 food banks.
Faced with soaring inflation, food banks are having to downsize meal portions and replace products such as turkey and butter with cheaper alternatives in the run up to Thanksgiving, Feeding America and other NGOs have warned in recent weeks.
DC Food Project, which helps school-age children in Washington D.C., has not yet had to scale down portions but is struggling to secure protein-rich produce within budget.
“Produce is so expensive, that’s been the number one thing that families cannot afford,” Lucie Leblois, one of the project’s founders, told Efe.
“And protein for sure right up there, we try really hard to come up with creative ways to provide protein for these families, so we could come up with tuna pouches, chicken pouches, but it is so expensive.”
DC Food Project distributes its food boxes to roughly 750 Washington school students every two weeks. Each is made up of $15-worth of produce designed to sustain a family of four for 10 days.
Beyond inflation, what worries Leblois the most is the hunger disproportionately affecting Black and Hispanic children in Washington, one of the world’s richest but most economically and socially disparate cities.
The Covid-19 pandemic lit the fuse for an explosion of poverty in the city.
Before the health crisis, the main food bank in the US capital, Capital Area Food Bank, distributed around 30 million meals a year but that number has since shot up to 75 million.
The number of children with insecure access to food in Washington went from one in five to one in three in that time.
To meet some of these needs, the majority of public schools offer free breakfast to students, and occasionally free dinners in the evening.
But the children who benefit from these school initiatives might then go without adequate food at the weekend or during vacations like Thanksgiving.
This is where the DC Food Project steps in to fill the gap, setting up every two weeks in a school car park where, after taking a delivery of food donated by DC Central Kitchen, a charitable organization run by Spanish chef José Andrés, NGO workers sort the food boxes for distribution. EFE