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According to a recent report by Feeding America, the pandemic highlighted an issue that plagued many Americans long before Covid-19 — hunger.

“Hunger is the physical feeling of not having enough food,” says Cassidy Carmen Bates, government and public affairs manager for the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano, California.

Bates told Fox News Digital on Friday that food insecurity means lack of access to four essential ingredients: 1) affordable food; 2) nutritious food; 3) available food; and 4) adequate food.

With inflation on the rise, food banks are struggling to keep up with high demand and skyrocketing prices

It is the lack of financial resources available for food at the household level.

Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, the national overall food insecurity rate was 10.9%, the lowest in 20 years, the report said.

A volunteer is shown packing onions at the Alameda County Community Food Bank warehouse in Oakland, California on Nov. 5, 2021.

A volunteer is shown packing onions at the Alameda County Community Food Bank warehouse in Oakland, California on Nov. 5, 2021.
(AP Photo/Terry Chee)

The rate rose slightly to 11.8% the following year in 2020.

This translates to 38.3 million people living in a household defined as food insecure.

But levels of food insecurity vary “significantly” across populations as well as by race and ethnicity Feeding America Report.

“Counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are disproportionately rural.”

The report states that people suffer from hunger in all counties and congressional districts, but more blacks and Latinos are food insecure than whites in 99% of counties. And “counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are disproportionately rural.”

“Federal programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the nation’s largest food assistance program, are the first line of defense against hunger,” the report added.

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“Apart from assistance provided by food banks and similar organizations, the availability of government support generally varies (in part) based on household income. In the case of SNAP, state income limits range from 130% to 200% of the federal poverty line ($36,075 to $55,500 for a family of four as of January 2022) .”

Cars line up to enter a food distribution event sponsored by Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Orange County in June 2022 at St. John Vianney Church in Orlando, Florida.  High food and gas prices are squeezing working families, sending some to food pantries for the first time;  Providers are struggling with inflationary costs due to demand spikes.

Cars line up to enter a food distribution event sponsored by Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Orange County in June 2022 at St. John Vianney Church in Orlando, Florida. High food and gas prices are squeezing working families, sending some to food pantries for the first time; Providers are struggling with inflationary costs due to demand spikes.
(Lightrocket by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/Getty Images)

Many of these people who don’t meet the criteria for programs like SNAP (but are still food-insecure) are turning to food banks, Bates told Fox News Digital.

According to the Feeding America website, “A food bank is a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes food to hunger-relief charities.

“Food banks serve as food storage and distribution depots for smaller front-line agencies and typically do not provide food directly to people struggling with hunger.”

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in demand for food across our network of 700 community partners, including food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens.”

According to Feeding America, they all rely on donors and volunteers to operate their food banks.

According to NPR, food banks are struggling to meet high demand due to reduced donations, supply chain delays and inflation.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in demand for food across our network of 700 community partners, including food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens,” said Greater Chicago Food Depository spokeswoman Man-Yee Lee.

“Food Depository staff have heard from network partners and guests at those sites that inflation and the rising cost of things like food and gas are negatively impacting them and their budgets.”

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Lee told Fox Digital News that its network partners served 10% more households in April 2022 compared to the same month, which she attributed to financial pressure on households.

But it is spending more than twice as much as two years ago to keep up with rising food costs and growing demand.

Shown here is a food pantry with bags packed for needy families.

Shown here is a food pantry with bags packed for needy families.

“It’s also a change in our procurement strategy to buy more because of increased prices, increased demand — donated food and reduced government food supplies,” Lee said.

“Inflation is at a 40-year high — more than 9% — and prices for food items like eggs and meat have risen 19.4%, meaning food is more expensive than other items right now,” said Joel Sjostrom, president and CEO of Food. Bank of Contra Costa & Solano.

The California Food Bank works to meet community needs through in-person distributions every day of the week in its two-county service area.

“Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine and its partners distributed 31.6 million meals last year, a 16% increase from the year before.”

“These prices continue to impact the most vulnerable in our community, especially when combined with gas prices, supply chain shortages and the long-term effects of the pandemic,” Sjostrom added.

The food bank will “pursue legislative advocacy with community advocates who have experience living with food insecurity to collectively build a strong social safety net that effectively addresses the root causes of hunger in our region,” he noted.

But food banks on the East Coast are also feeling the pressure, one example being in the state of Maine.

Across the US, thousands of people are lining up at food banks for help feeding their families.

Across the US, thousands of people are lining up at food banks for help feeding their families.

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), it ranks fifth in the nation for extremely low household food security and 1st in the New England region.

“The Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine and its partners distributed 31.6 million meals last year, a 16% increase over the previous year,” said Jessica Donahue, director of marketing and communications for the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

The Food Bank, Maine’s largest hunger-relief organization, is also experiencing increased demand, she told Fox Digital News.

“There are 40-50 cars lined up along the road leading to our hunger-relief partner’s building every Thursday morning for Free Food Thursday.”

“One of our partner agencies, the Augusta Food Bank in central Maine, recently said that the amount of food they’ve distributed is up 67% over two years ago and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon,” added Donahue.

“Every Thursday morning for Free Food Thursday there are 40-50 cars lined up along the road leading to our hunger-relief partner’s building. During the day, they typically see 85+ cars pass by – delivering 50,000 meals each month.”

“And that’s all,” she insists one About 600 of our partners.”

In the short term, Congress and the USDA should allocate more food through the Emergency Food Assistance Program to distribute through food banks to struggling families, Lee said.

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“In the long term, Congress must take action to strengthen our nutrition safety net.”

She added, “For example, [Congress could] Extend summer EBT [Electronic Benefits Transfer] A nationwide program to ensure that children have enough food even when schools are out for the summer.

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It could also work on “ensuring that monthly benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are enough for families to purchase nutritious food throughout the month.”