Food Banks Across the U.S. See Skyrocketing Demands and Fewer Donations
- As unemployment levels continue to rise, American’s all over the country are turning to food banks for assistance.
- But along with skyrocketing demands, food banks are also seeing fewer donations because of panic buying, hoarding, and other strains on the food supply chain.
- Experts believe some shortages will continue as more workers in processing plants, warehouses, and grocery stores contract the coronavirus.
- Meanwhile, the lack of demand from shuttered hotels, restaurants, and schools has forced farmers to destroy millions of pounds of perishable foods.
Food Banks See Shortages
More than 16 million people have filed for unemployment in the last three weeks— a number that is expected to grow— causing demand at food banks to skyrocket.
Jarring photos and videos from all over the country show miles of cars lined up for hours to get food at local donation centers.
Feeding America, the largest network of food banks in the U.S., reported that 98% of the 200 banks in their network reported increased demand. The organization also estimated that it will need around $1.4 billion in additional resources over the next six months to sustain its operations.
At the same time, food banks are seeing fewer volunteers as more people stay home and fewer donations because of panic buying and food hoarding.
The latter is especially concerning. Not only are less people making individual donations, grocery stores and retailers— which account for a huge chunk of donations— are also unable to give as much as normal because their shelves are stripped.
That, in turn, has also led to fewer donations from manufacturers who have to meet the increased demand at grocery stores. This has been the case for Feeding America, which reported donations from manufacturers have dropped by about half this month.
Farmers Forced to Destroy Crops
While food banks and grocery stores are experiencing shortages, farmers have been forced to destroy millions of pounds of fresh goods they cannot sell because demand has dropped drastically from all the restaurants, hotels, and schools that have closed.
The amount of food they are getting rid of is staggering. According to the New York Times, produce farmers are plowing millions of pounds of vegetables, while one chicken processor said it is smashing 750,000 unhatched eggs each week.
Dairy Farmers of America estimates that farmers are dumping around 3.7 million gallons of milk each day. International Dairy Foods Association reported that about 5% of America’s milk supply is being thrown out, and it expects that amount to double if closings are extended over the next few months.
While farmers have given some goods to food charities like Meals on Wheels, major-scale food banks like Feeding America largely need non-perishable goods.
That creates a vicious cycle because restaurants, hotels, and casinos that are shut down and not buying from farmers are also places that normally give large amounts of food to food banks.
Supply Chain Problems
The drastic spike in demand for groceries and drop in demand for farm produce have put significant strain on the food supply chain. But they are not the only contributing factors to the issue.
There is also an increasing number of workers in processing plants, warehouses, and grocery stores that are getting the coronavirus.
One of the most recent and notable examples is a Smithfield Foods pork processing facility in South Dakota. The facility announced it was shutting down Sunday after more than 230 workers got sick with the coronavirus.
The cases at the plant alone made up more than half of the state’s total confirmed cases, according to Governor Kristi Noem.
The incident is quite notable not only because that plant alone produces more than 5% of the nation’s pork, but also because it raises broader concerns about safety measures taken in the meat industry, which has seen multiple large-scale outbreaks.
Last week, Tyson Foods suspended operations at a pork plant in Iowa and JBS USA did the same at a beef plant in Pennsylvania after the coronavirus spread in those facilities.
On the opposite end of the supply chain, grocery store workers are also getting sick as well.
While there are no government agencies tracking cases among food industry workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said on Monday that at least 1,500 of its 1.3 million members have been infected with the virus, and 30 of them have died.
Industry leaders and experts say that shortages could increase, but continue to insist it is not a major problem. However, there is little writing and evidence from those same individuals regarding the impact these shortages can and will have on food banks.
While these concerns are expected to grow, there are some solutions in the works.
According to CNN, Feeding America has teamed up with the American Farm Bureau, which represents American agriculture producers, to propose a voucher program “that would increase the relationship between farmers and food banks, allowing them to work directly with one another.”
Normally, farmers and food banks go through third parties, which can delay food deliveries. However, the voucher program would cut out the middleman and send farm products to food banks while also helping farmers and ranchers earn back costs.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (ProPublica)
Survey and Census Data Shows Record Number of Americans are Struggling Financially
Americans are choosing not to pursue medical treatment more and more frequently as they encounter money troubles.
A recent federal survey shows that a record number of Americans were worse off financially in 2022 than a year prior.
Coupled with recent census data showing pervasive poverty across much of the country, Americans are forced to make difficult decisions, like foregoing expensive healthcare.
According to a recent Federal Reserve Bureau survey, 35% of adults say they were worse off in 2022 than 2021, which is the highest share ever recorded since the question was raised in 2014.
Additionally, half of adults reported their budget was majorly affected by rising prices across the country, and that number is even higher among minority communities and parents living with their children.
According to recent census data, more than 10% of the counties in the U.S. are experiencing persistent poverty, meaning the area has had a poverty rate of 20% or higher between 1989 and 2019.
16 states report at least 10% of their population living in persistent poverty. But most of the suffering counties were found in the South — which accounts for over half the people living in persistent poverty, despite making up less than 40% of the population.
These financial realities have placed many Americans in the unfortunate situation of choosing between medical treatment and survival. The Federal Reserve study found that the share of Americans who skipped medical treatment because of the cost has drastically increased since 2020.
The reflection of this can be found in the overall health of households in different income brackets. 75% of households with an income of $25,000 or less report being in good health – compared to the 91% of households with $100,000 or more income.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (Federal Reserve)
Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban
The ban will likely face legal challenges before it is officially enacted next year.
First Statewide Ban of TikTok
Montana became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation aimed at protecting “Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”
The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, though the law will likely face a handful of legal challenges before that date.
Under the law, citizens of the state will not be held liable for using the app, but companies that offer the app on their platforms, like Apple and Google, will face a $10,000 fine per day of violations. TikTok would also be subject to the hefty daily fine.
Questions remain about how tech companies will practically enforce this law. During a hearing earlier this year, a representative from TechNet said that these platforms don’t have the ability to “geofence” apps by state.
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, told the Associated Press that app stores could have the capability to enforce the restriction, but it would be difficult to carry out and there would be a variety of loopholes by tools like VPNs.
Montana’s law comes as U.S. politicians have taken aim at TikTok over its alleged ties to the CCP. Earlier this year, the White House directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. Conservatives, in particular, have been increasingly working to restrict the app.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said in a Wednesday statement.
Criticism of Montana Law
TikTok, however, has repeatedly denied that it gives user data to the government. The company released a statement claiming Montana’s law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people” in the state.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” the company said.
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Montana’s law for similar reasons.
“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the ACLU tweeted. “Elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”
Per the AP, there are 200,000 TikTok users in Montana, and another 6,000 businesses use the platform as well. Lawsuits are expected to be filed against the law in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Fast Company) (CBS News)
How a Disney-Loving Former Youth Pastor Landed on The FBI’s “Most Wanted” List
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Chris Burns’ 19-year-old son pleaded to his father via The Daily Beast.
Multi-Million Dollar Scheme
Former youth pastor turned financial advisor Chris Burns remains at large since going on the run in September of 2020 to avoid a Securities Exchange Commission investigation into his businesses.
Despite his fugitive status, the Justice Department recently indicted Burns with several more charges on top of the $12 million default judgment he received from the SEC.
Burns allegedly sold false promissory notes to investors across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The SEC claims he told the investors they were participating in a “peer to peer” lending program where businesses that needed capital would borrow money and then repay it with interest as high as 20%. Burns allegedly also reassured investors that the businesses had collateral so the investment was low-risk.
The SEC says that Burns instead took that money for personal use.
Burns began his adult life as a youth pastor back in 2007 before transitioning into financial planning a few years later. By 2017, he launched his own radio show, The Chris Burns Show, which was funded by one of his companies, Dynamic Money – where every week Burns would “unpack how this week’s headlines practically impact your life, wallet, and future,” according to the description. He also frequently appeared on television and online, talking about finances and politics.
The SEC alleges that he used his public appearances to elevate his status as a financial advisor and maximize his reach to investors.
His family told The Daily Beast that he became obsessed with success and he reportedly bought hand-made clothes, a million-dollar lakehouse, a boat, several cars, and took his family on several trips to Disney World. His eldest son and wife said that Burns was paying thousands of dollars a day for VIP tours and once paid for the neighbors to come along.
Then in September 2020, he reportedly told his wife that he was being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission but he told her not to worry.
The day that he was supposed to turn over his business documents to the SEC, he disappeared, telling his wife he was just going to take a trip to North Carolina to tell his parents about the investigation. Then, the car was found abandoned in a parking lot with several cashier’s checks totaling $78,000
FBI’s Most Wanted
The default judgment in the SEC complaint orders Burns, if he’s ever found, to pay $12 million to his victims, as well as over $650,000 in a civil penalty. Additionally, a federal criminal complaint charged him with mail fraud. Burns is currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Last week, the Justice Department indicted him on several other charges including 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
“Burns is charged for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from clients in an illegal investment fraud scheme,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Financial crimes of this nature can cause significant disruptions to the lives of those who are victimized, and the FBI is dedicated to holding these criminals accountable.”
His family maintains that they knew nothing of Burns’ schemes. His wife reportedly returned over $300,000 that he had given to her.
She and their eldest son, who is now 19, told The Daily Beast they just want Burns to turn himself in, take responsibility for his actions, and try to help the people he hurt.
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Burns’ son said in a message to his father via The Daily Beast.