In America’s hunger crisis, charities and neighbors are lifelines

The pandemic made it tougher for lower-income people who already were struggling to get enough good food. Across the nation, groups are stepping up to help.

Queens, N.Y.

María Quinteres, 84, wearing an American flag face mask, waits with hundreds of others at Latinos Unidos, a group that hands out free food boxes each Friday. Food insecurity may have affected about 45 million Americans in 2020, according to Feeding America, the country’s largest hunger-relief organization.
Photograph by Natalie Keyssar

It’s early for most people. 5:30 a.m. But not for Bessie Brooks, who’s heading out her door to help get food to people who need it in Lowndes County, Alabama.

To hear her tell it, though, that’s not early at all. “When I was working, I’d be at my patient’s house by 5 a.m.,” Mrs. Brooks says. 

Journalistic standards suggest I call her by her last name, Brooks. My manners suggest otherwise. I respect her by adding Mrs., as I was raised to do by my mother, who spent part of her growing-up years in Lowndes County. Mrs. Brooks is 87, after all. She worked 30 years as a home health worker for the county. The job required her to give personal care: Get them up, bathed, brush their teeth, give them their meds. But Bessie Brooks went beyond that and did whatever needed doing. 

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