The pandemic has brought unprecedented suffering and yet, Congress hasn’t passed new relief since March. As politicians attempt to negotiate a package before the holidays, Americans are going hungry. What about our politics let the situation get so bad?
On this episode of the podcast Social Distance, staff writer James Hamblin and executive producer Katherine Wells talk with Luis Guardia, the president of the Food Research & Action Center, and the Atlantic staff writer David A. Graham.
Listen to their conversation here:
What follows is a selection of their conversation with Guardia, edited for clarity:
Katherine Wells: What was the situation with hunger in this country before the pandemic?
Luis Guardia: We’ve certainly had a hunger problem before, though a lot of it remained unseen. There are a lot of misconceptions about who is hungry. And when COVID-19 hit, I think everybody was shocked to see how quickly things changed. Those hunger numbers just went through the roof really quickly.
We’ve gone beyond this notion of being food-insecure—in the sense of not knowing where the next meals were going to come from or [whether] they’re going to be enough. People actually started disrupting their meal patterns. People actually went hungry. Or if they didn’t go hungry, they had to make the tough decisions about maybe not paying the rent, or maybe not paying their medical bill, or maybe not paying the utility bill. The problem had come home to roost in a very sharp and incredibly fast way that we were just not anticipating.