A new analysis has found that 54 million people in the United States, including 18 million children, will lack access to sufficient food by the end of the year.
The report from U.S.-based anti-hunger group Feeding America underscores the extent to which chronic food scarcity and malnourishment has surged in poor communities amid a devastating increase of coronavirus infections which federal and state governments have failed to get under control.
The group has distributed 4.2 billion meals across the country between March and October 2020. It is estimated that there has been a 60 percent average increase in food bank users as the pandemic has swept across the country, with roughly four out of 10 users being first-time seekers of food aid.
The analysis comes one month after the U.S. Census Bureau reported that less than half of U.S. households with children feel “very confident” about having sufficient money to afford food through December, with a stunning 5.6 million households struggling to put food on the table during Thanksgiving week, according to a pandemic survey.
The crisis of food insecurity has slammed Black and Latino communities the hardest, as well as poor people living in remote “food deserts” where affordable and healthy food is less accessible. The same individuals who have suffered from the economic impact of the pandemic, including seniors and people with chronic disease, are also at the highest risk of major coronavirus-associated illness.
The report noted that even prior to the pandemic, over 37 million people – including over 11 million children – lived in homes that were food insecure.
While food insecurity had reached its lowest rates since prior to the 2008 Great Recession, the ongoing pandemic is set to reverse any improvements that have occurred in the decade since.
States with the highest projected rates of food insecurity in 2020 are all in the South, and the four states with the most people at risk of hunger are Mississippi at 24.1 percent, Arkansas at 22.5, Alabama with 22.2 and Louisiana at 21.7.
Over one in five residents of those four hard-hit states are expected to be food insecure by year’s end, meaning that they lack the money or resources necessary to place food on their tables, according to the Associated Press.
The rates of those facing hunger could be as high as one in six people, skyrocketing from 35 million in 2019 to over 50 million by the end of this year. The rise also means that one in four children could face hunger.
“There’s a very robust body of evidence that shows that when kids miss meals, it affects their physical health, how they perform in school or don’t perform, their graduation rates, and even their lifetime earnings, so the cost of doing nothing is very high. I worry a lot that we are looking at a lost generation of American kids,” said Lisa Davis, the senior vice president of No Kid Hungry, in an interview with Business Insider.
Low-wage workers who typically earned their paychecks in the service industry have also been the most impacted by the virus. However, those who enjoyed higher wages haven’t been spared by the pandemic and have also faced adversity.
And as states across the country have been forced to adopt new lockdown measures to stem surging infection rates and ease the pressure on strained health care systems, the unprecedented demand for food aid threatens to overwhelm food banks and non-profit organizations providing direct aid to residents.
The report comes as organizations have warned that the start of 2021 could see a historic crisis of evictions and homelessness across the country as a nationwide ban on evictions is set to expire at the end of the year.
In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an unprecedented order that banned evictions between September 4 and December 31.
The CDC warned that anywhere from 30 to 40 million people could face evictions without the measure, adding that “a wave of evictions on that scale would be unprecedented in modern times” and contribute to the spread of the pandemic due to people moving into closer quarters in shared housing or simply living on the streets.
The coinciding crises of potential mass evictions and widespread hunger across the United States shows the extent to which the pandemic has heightened the vulnerability already faced by huge segments of American society.
Washington State to Give Away Free Cannabis Joints With COVID-19 Jabs
Licensed cannabis dispensaries in Washington have been given the go-ahead by authorities to offer free joints to adults who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The “Joints for Jabs” program announced on Monday by the state’s liquor and cannabis board allows marijuana proprietors to offer pre-rolled joints to anyone over 21 who gets a vaccine shot at a clinic by July 12.
The offer only applies to pre-rolled weed cigarettes, and not to other products like edibles or loose cannabis flower, reports Associated Press.
So far, 58 percent of Washington residents have received at least a single dose while 49 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to the New York Times.
Gov. Jay Inslee has said that he would lift all pandemic restrictions by month’s end, if not sooner, once 70 percent of residents over the age of 16 have received their first dose of the vaccine.
The new promotion is a part of increased efforts by the state to allow breweries, wineries, restaurants and entertainment venues to offer free beverages and other goods in exchange for proof of vaccination. Free sports tickets and lotteries for cash prizes have also been offered to incentivize the vaccine for hesitant residents of the state.
States and cities across the United States have offered various promotions since the pace of vaccinations began to sharply decline in April.
The Biden administration has encouraged such creative approaches in hopes to keep up the rapid pace of vaccinations across the country, with White House officials saying that states could pay for the promotions using federal relief funds.
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
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