If Republicans have their way with anti-hunger programs, it’ll get a lot worse before it gets better.
Hunger is a concept that is often connected with poor developing countries, but it has also become increasingly common in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 49.1 million households experienced food insecurity at some point in 2013. On December 11, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released its 32nd Annual Report on Hunger and Homelessness. The report covered 25 American cities: 71% said the number of requests for emergency food assistance had increased in the last year, while only 25% said that requests for emergency food assistance had decreased. And 84% of the cities surveyed expected emergency food requests to increase in 2015, but many food banks may not have the resources to meet those requests.
Helene Schneider, mayor of Santa Barbara and co-chair of the Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness, warned in the report that Congress will increase hunger in U.S. cities if Republicans defund federal anti-hunger programs; the report found that in eight of the 25 cities, at least 20% of the emergency food being distributed came from federal funding (in Los Angeles, it was 51%). Here are 10 U.S. cities where an appalling number of Americans are going hungry.
In 2010, a study by the Food Research Action Center declared Memphis to be the hunger capital of the U.S. and found that 26% of its residents had suffered from food insecurity at some point during the previous 12 months. Four years later, Memphis had the worst hunger problem of the 25 cities examined in the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ new report: 46% of the requests for emergency food assistance in Tennessee’s largest city—almost half—were being unmet. Food pantries in Memphis are overwhelmed with requests, and according to the report, they are having a hard time “securing funds to purchase the food needed to meet the need.” Unemployment, low wages and poverty were cited as the main causes of hunger in Memphis, where the official unemployment rate is 7.5% and 26.2% of its residents are living below the poverty line. The Conference of Mayors noted that in 2015, “city officials expect requests for food assistance to increase moderately and resources to provide food assistance to decrease moderately.”
2. San Antonio
In the Conference of Mayors’ report, there is both good news and bad news where San Antonio is concerned. The good news is that requests for emergency food assistance in San Antonio have “decreased over the past year by 18%.” But the bad news is that 38% of the requests for emergency food assistance are still going unmet in that Texas city, where the Conference said that the number of homeless families “increased by 19 percent” over the past year. For 2015, city officials expect a “moderate” increase in food requests combined with a “moderate” decrease in the resources to meet them—and almost half of the San Antonio residents facing food insecurity next year are likely to be the working poor. The Conference found that 46% of the people requesting emergency food assistance there were employed.
3. San Francisco
San Francisco has long been one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. Extreme gentrification in the Northern California city has gone from bad to worse in recent years, making it even more difficult to stay afloat without at least an upper-middle-class income. The U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that of the 25 cities analyzed, San Francisco is among the worst for hunger: 37% of the requests for emergency food assistance in San Francisco went unmet in the last year (compared to 15% in Denver or 10% in Charlotte, NC). Food pantries in the Bay Area are working hard to meet the heavy demand for food assistance: the Mayors Conference reported that the San Francisco/Marin Food Bank Pantry Program feeds, on average, 30,000 households every week and distributed an impressive 30 million pounds of food through its pantry network in 2013. It also fights hunger in San Francisco with an aggressive food stamp outreach that includes special “SNAP in a day” events in which the poor can receive EBT cards the same day they apply for them. But in a city with such a high cost of living, the San Francisco/Marin Food Bank Pantry Program needs a lot more funding. The Conference of Mayors predicts that in 2015, the need for emergency food assistance in San Francisco “will increase substantially” while funding for the city’s anti-hunger programs “will decrease substantially.”