But her mother’s salary, now alone to do housework, is not enough to feed her and her two little sisters. So the young girl queues in front of a school for a distribution of food products organized by a non-profit association.
“Sometimes we need a little groceries to keep our fridge full,” explains Kimberly, in Cockeysville, north of the US city of Baltimore, during a break from her school classes which now run online.
More and more children are hungry in the United States. The coronavirus epidemic, which has killed around 280,000 people in the country, has caused a deep economic crisis.
According to the Commerce Department, 12% of adults say they “sometimes” or “often” didn’t have enough to eat in the past month. Some 10% of mothers of children under five said they had suffered from hunger at some point in October and November, according to a Brookings Institution survey.
The Feeding America charity estimates that around 50 million people will be considered food insecure this year, including around 17 million children.
“You can say that food insecurity is currently the highest on record in the modern era,” Lauren Bauer, economics researcher at the Brookings Institution, told ..
The numbers are shocking for the world’s largest economy, and one of the major donors of food aid to other countries.
“Food and agriculture make up about 20% of the US economy, but 100% of people eat,” said Chloe Waterman, program manager for advocacy group Friends of the Earth, who emphasizes the role of the ministry of Agriculture to tackle the problem.
The onset of the pandemic in March and the business closures that followed caused massive unemployment and a severe economic recession.
Schools have also closed, preventing the poorest children from getting free meals. According to Lauren Bauer, commodity shortages in supermarkets have also primarily affected low-income parents.
Congress responded by allowing US states to give families benefit cards equal to the value of school meals, while many ridings continued to provide food for students.
But there are holes in that safety net, says Ms Bauer, especially for parents who can’t get to where schools are handing out their free meals.
And the government’s main program for providing food to families in need, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), does not compensate enough to live on, shifting the burden of rising unemployment onto the poor. charities, says Chloe Waterman.
This is the case of the Baltimore Hunger Project, which provides food products on weekends in the city of Maryland and surrounding suburbs.
Requests have tripled since the start of the pandemic, and the association is now helping 2,000 families.
Among them, Kimberly was able to collect eggs, bread and other basic items, for herself and her mother, both undocumented, and her two sisters born in the United States.
“It’s really difficult sometimes, but you have to keep going,” she said.
“It breaks my heart,” said Ayo Akinremi, a Nigerian immigrant to the United States, who began collecting food for his wife and children after losing his job, and is now a volunteer.
“It was a culture shock for me to come to the United States to find so much food insecurity,” he says.