Retailers, consumers and prices
The longest recession since the Great Depression has taken an exacting toll on Americans and their ability to put food on the table. Families who once considered themselves solidly middle class are now signing up for food stamps or turning to food banks to feed themselves in the face of lost jobs or cut wages.
“These are our neighbors, our friends, the people we go to church with,” said Margaret McKenna, president of the Walmart Foundation, of the number of Americans who are going hungry. “This is not like this is the other, people we don’t know. These are people we do know.”
Food stamp enrollment has reached record numbers, while a survey by Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, found that 99 percent of participating food banks reported a surge in demand for emergency food assistance in the past year. Ninety-eight percent of food banks said that demand is being driven by first time users.
Jean Osborn, 61, who lives in Bluffton, Indiana with her 76-year-old husband, knows what it means to lose her footing in this economy. Osborn can no longer work due to health issues and her husband supports them with a factory job that pays $33,000 a year — an income level that means the couple does not qualify for many government benefits.