The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Food banks across the United States are struggling amid droves of hungry Americans in need of a meal. And images from photographers around the country show the horrifying number of Americans lining up to receive food assistance.

Anaheim, California: Cars were lined up about a half mile long in both directions of the 57 Freeway to get to Second Harvest Food Bank

Mindy Schauer/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty

“We’re looking at an increase of 17.1 million people over the course of the next six months,” Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, one of the country’s largest hunger-relief organizations, told NBC News. Babineaux-Fontenot highlighted a 98 percent increase in demand for free food and Feeding America, expects to lose $1.4 billion trying to survive.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: Cars line up at a drive-thru food pantry.

Neil Blake/Grand Rapids Press/AP

Des Moines, Iowa: Over 100,000 Iowans filed first time claims for unemployment in the last three weeks. People started lining up 3 hours before the food distribution began.

Jack Kurtz/ZUMA

In San Antonio, ten thousand cars waited at a food distribution point run by the San Antonio Food Bank. CEO Eric Cooper told NBC’s Hoda Kotb on the Today Show that the bank typically feeds about 60,000 people a week—it’s now about 120,000 people a week.

According to the Guardian, the number of people lining up in Phoenix, Arizona has tripled. Across southern Arizona, it doubled. In Las Vegas, where demand is up by 30 percent, one of the largest food pantries has shuttered 170 out of 180 locations. In Massachusetts, food pantries increased distribution by 849 percent.

Des Moines, Iowa: Maria Cunningham sorts bags of food before a drive through emergency food distribution at First DSM Church. DSM has increased their food pantry from one day weekly to three days per week.

Jack Kurtz/ZUMA

Detroit, Michigan: The Gleaners Community Food Bank distributes free food to residents in need in southwest Detroit.

Jim West/ZUMA

Sheila Christopher, director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, told the Guardian that she’s “been in this business over 30 years, and nothing compares to what we’re seeing now.” Jennifer McLean, the CEO of NYC’s City Harvest, told the New York Times that the need they’re seeing now dwarfs other crises like Hurricane Sandy and even September 11th.

People wait in their cars Thursday, at Traders Village for the San Antonio Food Bank to begin food distribution. 10,000 people seek San Antonio Food Bank help.

William Luther/San Antonio Express News/ZUMA

But as more Americans find themselves relying on these organizations, those running these programs are facing the pandemic too. Dependent on volunteers, food banks across the country are coming up short on labor while people hunker down. In places like Washington state and Louisiana the National Guard has been called in to help with labor shortages. The Washington Post reported that many volunteer shifts have been canceled, because much of the labor that food banks rely on is comprised of retirees and senior citizens. To top it all off, Feeding America reported that they’ve seen a 64 percent decrease in donations.

The images are almost apocalyptic, flashing by in the collage of pictures that populate the intro to a sci-fi film. They’re also becoming frighteningly common.

Sunrise, Florida: Feeding South Florida has seen a 600 percent increase in the those asking for food aid as people, some of whom have lost jobs, need to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic.

Joe Raedle/Getty

WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

payment methods

WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate