Rep. Jacobs closing on Hunger res
WASHINGTON -- Staffers at Bread for the City, a venerable charity in the nation's capital, thought they were prepared for this year's annual pre-Thanksgiving Holiday Helpers food giveaway. The pandemic had faded, but inflation was high, so they budgeted to give out 12,000 meals, 20% higher than normal pre-pandemic levels.
But they were quickly overwhelmed, with long lines of clients waiting hours to receive a free turkey and a $50 debit card for groceries. They were forced to shut down three days early after helping 16,000 people, many more than anticipated.
“We don’t want to retraumatize our community by having them wait outside four hours for a turkey,” said Ashley Domm, the charity’s chief development officer. “We are not set up to have hundreds of people lined up on a city street.”
Bread for the City’s experience reflects a larger dynamic playing out across the country. What many Americans hoped would be the first normal holiday season in three years has instead been thrown into a heightened hunger crisis once again, with Christmas on the horizon.
A September report by the Urban Institute estimated that about 1 in 5 adults experienced household food insecurity last summer, about the same as during the first year of the pandemic but a sharp increase from the spring of 2021. Black and Hispanic adults reported higher rates of food insecurity than their white counterparts, according to the report.
“In the pandemic, nobody had jobs and nobody had money,” said Nancy Murphy, a 45-year old caregiver picking up a frozen turkey and groceries last week from a giveaway at the Redeemed Christian Church of God New Wine Assembly church in northeast Washington. “Now they’re back at their jobs but the money isn’t going far enough. It’s still hard.”
The government estimates food prices will be up 9.5% to 10.5% this year. And that's squeezing the budgets of many Americans and the food banks that have helped them, especially with the expiration of the massive flow of pandemic relief aid.
“ Inflation has been the story of the year,” said Michael Altfest, director of community engagement at the Alameda County Food Bank in Oakland, California.
Altfest said the level of community need remains 50% to 70% higher than pre-pandemic levels, and about 30% of calls to the food bank’s emergency helpline are from first-time callers.
In multiple cases, charities and food banks had prepared for increased numbers due to inflation, only to find the level of need had far exceeded their projections.
The Capital Area Food Bank in Washington originally projected it would need to distribute about 43 million meals during the July 2022-June 2023 budget year. Now four months into that fiscal year, it already is 22% ahead of those predictions.
“That was an educated prediction with a good four or five months of information,” said the food bank's CEO, Radha Muthiah. “We are always thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas right when everybody's heading to the beach in summer.”
In Illinois, Jim Conwell of the Greater Chicago Food bank says the need remains elevated. "So we’re purchasing more and we’re spending more on what we do purchase," he said.
His organization’s network served about 30% more households in August 2022, compared to the previous August.
“Families that were just getting their feet back underneath them are experiencing a whole new challenge or even if they have employment, or have several jobs or sources of income, it’s just not going as far as it was two years ago,” he said.
Higher prices are forcing people to make “sacrifices on their food,” Altfest said.
For example, he said, the price of chicken has more than doubled — from 78 cents per pound last year to $1.64 per pound this year. Estimates from the Farm Bureau set the cost of turkey as 21 percent higher than last year. And market researcher Datasembly estimates that a 16-ounce box of stuffing costs 14% more than last year, while a 5-pound bag of Russet potatoes averages 45.5% more.
Mike Manning, president of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank in Louisiana, draws a distinction between the increased hunger levels sparked by the pandemic and the current crisis. During the pandemic, millions of people's jobs and incomes essentially disappeared, creating an immediate wave of need that he compared to the aftermath of a hurricane.
But the current crisis has been a slow and steady rise, starting in late February and still climbing. Manning said his food bank has seen a 10% to 15% rise in local food insecurity in just the past two months.
“You're talking to people who are on lower incomes and they’re working multiple jobs — just think of the cost of them to get from one job to the other with the gas eating up whatever extra they’re trying to make,” he said. “What are they going to do? Do they give up gas so they can’t get to work or sacrifice on food and come back and ask us for help?”
And with no clear signs on when the long-term inflation wave might ease, “This almost feels like more of a marathon with no finish line in sight,” said Conwell of the Chicago food bank.
Domm recalls the lines at Bread for the City that "just stayed overwhelmingly long,” for weeks.
The fact that clients were willing to stand outside for hours for a turkey and a debit card speaks to “the intensity and depth of the need,” she said.
Domm also believes there's a psychological element at play as well; after two consecutive holiday seasons warped by the pandemic, families are intensely eager to have something closer to normal.
“People have avoided their families for the last two years. So this year, there’s more pressure to really get groceries and have a group meal,” she said.
Associated Press reporters Anita Snow in Phoenix and Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit contributed to this report.
FAIRFIELD -- A Bay Area food bank volunteer knows what it's like to grow up hungry and her experience is driving her to help others like her.
This holiday season, inflation and the pandemic are impacting the demand on Bay Area food banks, and the person standing next to you in line or passing you in the halls at school or church may very well be hungry.
"We wound up living in a tent at Lake Meade where we relied on the generosity of those around us," said Karen, who volunteers at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and preferred not to use her last name.
Karen lived with a single mom, her brother and their pet dog after her mother fell on hard times. They moved to Las Vegas, where Karen's mother believed she could find work. When she couldn't, often there wasn't enough food to feed her children.
Karen remembers days collecting cans tossed in bushes to get enough money to buy a dollar hamburger, which she would share with her brother while her mother looked on.
"My mom would often say she'd already eaten, she was full, didn't need anything," said Karen. "I still cry for that little girl. I feel sad for her and for her brother and for her mom."
Now that she's grown, Karen has channeled the pain of growing up hungry to helping other kids like she used to be helped. She imagines the bags she fills at the food bank will go to kids in need, like she once was, noting that we all may be living near someone who is hungry but may not admit it.
"You do know people who are hungry," said Karen. "They don't show it outwardly."
FAYETTEVILLE -- A pair of experts from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville participated in the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health in more than a half-century.
Among the recommendations that emerged from the Sept. 28 conference in Washington, D.C., were:
• A pilot program to study covering medically tailored meals as part of Medicare Advantage plans for those with health problems.
• Investing in parks.
• Expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP -- currently, benefits average $5 per person per day -- with a focus on increased access to fruits and vegetables.
• Expanding free meals in schools for youths.
• Having food companies voluntarily reduce salt and sugar levels.
• Posting nutritional information on the front of packages rather than the back.
Susan Schneider, William H. Enfield professor of law and director of the LL.M. Program in Agricultural and Food Law at UA, said the conference -- which brought together individuals, business and government to try to find solutions -- was "definitely a step in the right direction."
"These are difficult problems to take on, and no one group can fix it," Schneider said. "Food is so essential and so connected to health -- it's in everything we do -- and if we think about it a little more, we can all benefit."
As a state, Arkansas fares poorly in food insecurity and diet-related disease metrics, a shared trait among Southern states, she said. The state's obesity rate is over 40%, and -- nationally -- diet-related diseases account for $173 million to $190 million in health care costs annually, so short-term investments are advisable to reduce the force of long-term consequences.
For example, when children experience food insecurity, they perform worse in school, which can negatively affect them for life, she said. Workplaces can invest in employee health, too, with "little things that make a difference," such as providing healthier food options rather than the traditional chips and candy of vending machines -- "have an apple instead of those chips."
The first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, convened in 1969, led to the expansion of SNAP, formerly known as food stamps; helped create Women, Infants and Children, which serves half the babies born in America by assisting mothers with food and other aid; and began other nutrition support systems that aimed to dramatically reduce starvation in America.
Bipartisan legislation in Congress directed the White House to convene again, with the goal of addressing current challenges and setting the nation's food policy agenda for the future, as President Joe Biden's stated aim is to end hunger in America by 2030.
Many of the policy recommendations that emerged from the conference would require congressional approval, while others will need cooperation from the private sector, but the Biden Administration has already announced $8 billion in commitments from private companies, industry groups and charitable foundations.
Erin Parker, the executive director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at UA-Fayetteville, is "hopeful for these outcomes, and it's a great starting point to have these conversations, but now the important work comes afterward. Everybody eats, so [these issues] impact everyone."
Expanding the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations -- in which the U.S Department of Agriculture provides foods to income-eligible households living on Indian reservations and to Native American households residing in designated areas near reservations or in Oklahoma -- and SNAP, both goals from the conference, would have "a pretty significant impact" on the country's native population, said Parker, who joined Schneider at the conference.
"We've gotten a lot of calls [from members of those communities] about expanding [the program], and 25% of American Indian/Alaska Natives rely on food stamps each month," Parker said.
'HONORED TO PARTICIPATE'
Under the guidance of visiting assistant professor Kelly Nuckolls last summer, students in the LL.M. program helped Schneider and Parker prepare by researching and writing about food law and courses that would be addressed at the conference, according to the university. Their research, reviewed by LL.M. faculty, was then submitted to the White House Conference team.
In Schneider's program, "our focus is really on a lot of what the conference was exploring," particularly the system of food from production to plate, and "we talk a lot about food insecurity and obesity, she said. "I was honored to participate -- it's fantastic to have two representatives from Arkansas -- and proud to represent our school and students."
More than 600 attended the September conference in person, with thousands more online, and Parker was keenly interested in discussions about native producers and access to culturally appropriate food, both of which are among her specialties.
For many native producers -- be they ranchers or crop-focused farmers -- "it's not just about accessing a market, but creating a market," particularly for those in rural and/or remote locations where broadband internet isn't widely available, she said. Being able to earn a living by selling their product doesn't benefit only them, but it can create more jobs and prosperity in their communities, which is especially valuable on tribal reservations -- many of which battle poverty, she said.
In the U.S., the market value of agricultural products sold by American Indian/Alaska Native producers increased from $3.24 billion in 2012 to $3.5 billion in 2017 -- and has continued to rise in the years since, Parker said. Over that same five-year period, the number of those farms increased by 7%.
It's also crucial to make sure native individuals have access to nutritious, healthy, culturally appropriate foods, whether on tribal reservations or not, Parker said. As one native woman who doesn't live on tribal land recently told Parker, the need for those foods "didn't end when I left my land."
And food can be deeply spiritual for native individuals, Parker said. Many foods are "embedded in the culture, really important from a holistic health standpoint."
Expanding the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations program "is a step in the right direction, [and] that's ramping up now," she said. Many households participate in the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations program as an alternative to SNAP because they do not have easy access to SNAP offices or authorized food stores.
Schneider was especially pleased that the conference looked at the country's food challenges in a "holistic" fashion and "brought together rural and urban."
Rural areas struggle with food insecurity, and there's often a lack of access to nutritious food, and dietary diseases "are a huge problem," she said. That problem of access is intertwined with obesity, as "a lot of the time it's cheaper to buy unhealthy, ultra-processed food than healthy food."
Parker was likewise happy that the conference emphasized food and nutrition in rural America, because "rural America has unique needs, and we can't leave rural America behind."
Arkansas is in many respects a rural state, and it's also "such a huge agriculture state, [with] 14 million acres of farmland," she said. Arkansas is the top rice-producing state in America, yet "one in five Arkansans are food-insecure, and I was one of them growing up, so I come to this from a personal place."
FOOD INSECURITY, OBESITY
At least 10% of the American public is "food insecure," meaning they're not sure where their next meal is coming from, and one in six Americans use the charitable food sector for nutrition assistance. More than 40% of Americans are considered obese, in part because healthier food tends to be more expensive and less available -- particularly in less affluent communities.
Obesity has even been deemed "a national security issue" by the U.S. military, Schneider said. Roughly 25% of all applicants to the military are medically disqualified because of excessive weight and body fat.
"I've been studying these issues for quite a few years, but it was empowering to see so many people talking about a problem that exists in all of our communities and acknowledging we can do better, because we have to do better," Schneider said. "We're looking for solutions where people can help other people."
The start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was an economic nosedive for millions of Americans, as unemployment spiked in a matter of days and food banks and pantries were swamped by hungry people in need, poor and wealthy alike.
But now, even with unemployment down to pre-pandemic levels and wages rising slightly, the hunger situation nationally and in Southern California might be more dire.
“During the pandemic, we saw food lines we haven’t seen since the Depression,” said LaVal Brewer, chief executive of South County Outreach, a hunger and homeless prevention organization in Irvine.
“But conditions might actually be worse today than during the pandemic,” he added. “It’s not as visible, maybe, but it’s just as bad.”
Consider: This month, if accurate trends hold, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank will help about 800,000 people. That’s down from the 1 million people a month who were helped during the peak of the pandemic, but more than double the 300,000 helped during each of the last months of pre-pandemic 2019.
“We’re lucky. We have good relationships with donors, and that’s helping,” said the group’s spokesman David May. “But demand isn’t down all that much.”
Nonprofit food providers in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties report similar, if not identical, trends.
But food experts say those numbers tell only part of the story.
During the pandemic, short-term relief programs from all levels of government directed food and money to food banks and others offering free nutrition. Though distribution was hampered by the spread and threat of COVID-19, most people who needed food in 2020 and 2021 usually could get it.
It’s unclear if that’s true today. Local food bank leaders say this year’s numbers don’t reflect the world of people who aren’t showing up for food but are still hungry.
Brewer, of South County Outreach, said his organization got food to 932 families last month – an all-time high. Though he was happy to see that people view his agency as a welcome resource, Brewer noted that an all-time high for giving away food isn’t a good thing. And, like others, he believes even more people need help but aren’t getting it.
Again, that story is partly reflected in numbers.
Orange County Food Bank is on track to give out about 27 million pounds of food this year, either directly to people in need or indirectly to smaller food pantries and others, according to the nonprofit. Though that’s up from the 23 million pounds the group distributed in 2019, it’s well under the 63 million pounds of food OC Food Bank handled last year.
But where the 2020-’21 spike in demand was met with an influx of food donations and cash, this year’s decline is a supply-side issue.
“That lower total this year is a reflection of less food to give out, not a drop in demand,” said Mark Lowry, the organization’s director of operations.
“The truth is, we don’t know how many people are actually in need.”
Lowry pointed to an email exchange this week in which he saw a request from a group to feed 500 families, but a reply that noted the Food Bank could only supply food for about half that number.
“Those other families aren’t getting help, but it doesn’t mean they don’t need it,” he said. “Hunger hasn’t gone anywhere.”
The problem is inflation, which Lowry and others said is adding to the region’s hunger problem in different ways, some obvious and some hidden.
On the obvious side, inflation means basic nutrition is tougher to afford. Food prices rose nearly 8% over the past year in the Los Angeles region, according to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prices for energy (gasoline) jumped 23.8%, while prices for other items – shelter, clothing, transportation – rose at a more modest 6%.
That is prompting low-wage earners and fixed-income seniors – who comprise the vast majority of people served by food pantries – to seek help with their food bills, the rare budget item that can be reduced from month to month.
“The cost of living is pushing more people who wouldn’t have seen themselves needing food support in 2019 into a different situation today,” said Brewer.
But the less-obvious problem is inflation’s effect on non-profit food providers. Though they operate like any other business, with bills for gas and rent and other expenses, they don’t have the option of passing those higher costs to their customers.
“We deliver with trucks, and we service about 300 pantries,” said Claudia Keller, executive director at Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. “That’s a lot of gas.”
Brewer echoed that.
“All of the same issues you see in a household, or a business, are seen here,” he said. “We’re dancing the inflation dance ourselves.”
At most food banks in Southern California, 90% or more of the product given to people in need is donated, either from individuals or farmers, or grocery stores or restaurants. That softens, but doesn’t eliminate, the pain of rising grocery prices. But it does curtail some of those donations. Broadly speaking, food bank operators said the same economic dymanic that brings more people to the food bank – inflation – also pushes the food providers a little closer to closing their doors.
“We’re not thinking for now. But we do wonder if we can keep the lights on in six months,” Brewer said.
Inflation also hurts food banks by changing the national narrative. During the pandemic, local and national media were focused on stories about people in cars (sometimes high-priced cars) idling in muli-mile-long lines as they waited for a box of food. Today, the news focus is about how economic woes persist even as the job market is growing.
One story tends to prompt people to think about food banks, the other does not. For organizations that survive on donations, that shift in perception has hurt.
“We’re not the big story right now,” said Lowry of the OC Food Bank. “That means we’re not top of mind. People are still generous, but people have moved on.”
Others also note that inflation is driving hunger.
In September, the Urban Institute released a study that found that 1 in 5 Americans currently face some form of food insecurity, roughly the same as during the height of the pandemic.
In its report, the Urban Institute – a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that tracks economic data that affects American families – described the situation this way:
“High food price inflation, along with elevated costs for other basic needs, such as transportation and rent, have likely eroded food budgets in the last year.
“In addition, some of the safety net responses that buffered food insecurity in 2021 are no longer in place. Unemployment rates have declined significantly since early 2020, and wages have increased for many, but wage growth has not kept pace with rapidly rising inflation.”
The study also found that the greatest need was among families with young children and in communities of color. During the past year, the report found, the number of people expressing a severe need for food had nearly doubled, from about 5% to about 9% of the population.
If the start of the pandemic was a economic reckoning for all Americans, a deadline coming early next year might result in a second hit for lower-income Californians.
In October, the state announced that it would end the official public health emergency prompted by COVID-19 on Feb. 28, 2023, nearly three years after the initial order was issued.
Though the state wants to keep some health programs in place and, among other things, allow nurses to administer COVID-19 vaccines, local food bank officials fear the state will cut the emergency allotment for the state’s food-supplement program, CalFresh. If that plays out — and it’s unclear, for now, if the state plans to end the subsidy – lower-income people might get less each month from CalFresh. That, in turn, could strain budgets that for many are already beyond breaking.
“When federal (pandemic) assistance subsided, we knew it was coming and we could deal with it. And the generosity of community – our community in particular – has remained up because people know we need it,” said Keller of Second Harvest.
“But benefits for individuals, that’s different. If you’re getting CalFresh benefits, and that goes away, that could be a real food cliff, again, for a lot of people.”
Ukrainian authorities have reminded their fellow citizens that the Russians will be held responsible for the historical crime of the Holodomor, as well as for their current war crimes.
Source: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy; Andrii Yermak, the Head of the President’s Office of Ukraine; Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal; Ruslan Stefanchuk, Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian Parliament]; video posted by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy
Quote from Zelenskyy: "Ukrainians have been through some very terrible things. And despite everything, we have retained the ability not to obey and our love for freedom. Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger, now with darkness and cold.
We cannot be broken.
Our fire will not go out.
We will conquer death again."
Quote from Yermak: "We remember the Holodomor. We know who the architect of the genocide was. We also see who wants to create a ‘Coldomor’. ["Coldomor" is a paraphrase; Yermak is referring to Russia’s ongoing attempts to freeze Ukrainians to death during this war – ed.]
The Russians will pay for all the victims of the Holodomor and will be held responsible for today's crimes. It will be a historic time of retribution."
Quote from Shmyhal: "Once again, 90 years later, the Russian regime wants to break Ukrainians and our will through genocide. It will not happen. The invincible and brave Ukrainian people will stand and flourish again after victory. And Russia will definitely pay for its crimes. Step by step, we are bringing this day closer."
Details: Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, stressed that Ukrainians will always stand up for historical justice.
"We will always appeal to the world to prevent such crimes from ever happening again!" Stefanchuk emphasised.
The Ministry of Information Policy reminds people to light a candle of remembrance to pay tribute to the victims of Holodomor at 16:00.
Journalists fight on their own frontline. Support Ukrainska Pravda or become our patron!
Almonds are well-known for their health benefits since they’re packed with protein and rich in healthy fats. They may also promote satiety, which could help curb hunger and promote healthy weight management.
New research from the University of South Australia (UniSA) shows that people who ate almonds had improved levels of appetite-regulating hormones compared to those consuming a carbohydrate-rich snack bar.
But the almond snack was no better than the snack bar regarding participants’ reported hunger levels or the amount of energy they consumed at a buffet 2 hours later.
The study, which was funded by the Almond Board of California, was recently published in the European Journal of Nutrition.
The study involved 140 adults ages 25 to 65 with obesity and overweight.
After fasting overnight, participants were randomly allocated a snack, with 68 people being given almonds and the other 72 receiving a calorically similar carbohydrate-rich snack bar.
After measuring participants’ hormonal changes, researchers questioned individuals regarding their perceived appetite 30 minutes, 1 hour, 90 minutes, and 2 hours after their respective snacks.
The researchers then offered 97 of the participants an all-you-can-eat-style buffet, during which their caloric intake was assessed. Of these people, 49 had consumed almonds, and 48 had snack bars.
The participants were given 30 minutes to eat all they wanted and were immediately asked about their appetites.
Researchers found no significant difference in the number of calories consumed at the buffet between those who snacked on almonds and those who had a carbohydrate-rich snack bar.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 41.9% of adult Americans had obesity from 2017 to 2020, an increase from 30.5% from 1999 to 2000. During the same time period, severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.
Obesity is linked to an array of serious health outcomes, from stroke to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer.
As such, health and nutrition experts are eager to find effective strategies to help people consume fewer calories.
But the current study did not demonstrate that almonds had a significant impact on short-term energy consumption compared to a carbohydrate-high snack bar.
Corresponding author Alison Coates, Ph.D., professor in human nutrition at UniSA, told Medical News Today that further studies monitoring daily energy intake for almond consumption compared to carbohydrate-equivalent snacks are needed to adequately measure the long-term effects on weight management.
The study shows that the almond snack had an effect on various hunger hormones.
C-peptide responses were reduced by 47% in the almond group. This hormone mirrors the insulin level produced by the pancreas, and lower levels may increase insulin sensitivity, making the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) less likely.
Other appetite-suppressing glucose-dependent hormones also became elevated for almond-eaters.
For instance, satiety-inducing glucagon levels rose by 39%. Pancreatic polypeptide responses that slow digestion and thus food consumption went up by 45%. And levels of glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide, which regulates a person’s weight and food intake, increased by 18%.
The authors note the differences in hormone levels likely reflect the higher fat and lower carbohydrate levels in nuts compared to high-carbohydrate snack bars.
But study participants did not report feeling consciously less hungry, though the authors say this is not surprising.
“Only a handful of studies have previously tested the role of nut consumption in appetite control. Two accurate studies with walnuts and pistachios have reported similar findings to our work. However, not all studies have reported the beneficial effects of nut consumption on appetite-regulating hormones with different responses, possibly due to differences in study design and the health status of participants in trials.”
– Alison Coates, Ph.D., study author
The study also points out that people with overweight or obesity may develop resistance to appetite-regulating hormones, resulting in a “misalignment” between hormonal signals and perception.
Appetite is complex, and the discrepancy in the study’s findings underlines the need to look at hormone levels and other factors that determine hunger levels and what people ultimately choose to eat.
When consumed in moderation, almonds are a nutrient-dense source of healthy fat and are unlikely to cause weight gain.
The authors wrote that “higher nut intake was associated with reductions in body weight and body fat.”
Alice Creedon, Ph.D., a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Nutritional Studies at King’s College London, U.K., told MNT:
“Almonds are rich in healthy fats and fiber and are a source of plant-based protein that may help us to feel fuller for longer. When we consume whole almonds, we only absorb around 60% of the calories they contain due to their unique physicochemical properties.”
While this study did not find that almonds helped people feel fuller for longer or eat less, nuts — not just almonds —remain a valuable source of nutrition.
As Dr. Coates highlighted, regular nut intake is “recommended within national dietary guidelines around the world because of their nutrient contribution to the diet and reported health benefits.”
With the holidays just around the corner, most people are scrambling to buy last-minute gifts and trying to find the best deals. Despite being a jolly time of the year, it can bring out the worst. In a viral TikTok, a Target employee compares working at the company during the holiday season to The Hunger Games.
The video features user Joshy Thomason (@jjthomason7) as he sits in the backroom in a cubicle at Target. He is scratching his head as he looks at the camera in disbelief. The sound used in the background is from The Hunger Games, saying “welcome” a few times followed by “happy Hunger Games.”
In the text overlay, Thomason writes, “literally everyone who works in retail rn.”
Thomason vents his feelings in the caption, writing, “holiday season be killin me.”
@jjthomason7 holiday season be killin me 😩#target #targetemployee #retail #holiday ♬ original sound – Lauren James
The video racked up over 179,000 views as of Friday where alleged current and former Target employees wished each other luck during the holiday season in the comments section.
“As a fellow target employee, may the odds be ever in your favor,” one viewer wrote, quoting the popular line in the Hunger Games movie.
“I’m so sorry bestie I’ve been there, may the odds be in your favor,” another echoed.
“After 3 years of being a team lead I decided to walk out on the spot. Good luck everybody else, I turn now,” a third said.
Others expressed their feelings about the holidays at Target.
“Target gets destroyed during the Holidays orders never end,” one stated.
“Target during the holidays is true horror I had my PTSD kick in just seeing the red in the background,” a second commented.
“I went through 3 holiday seasons with Target and I almost had myself committed each time,” a third said.
Some people even shared their holiday horror stories at different companies.
“I worked at Barnes and Nobel on Black Friday and Christmas Eve one year and NEVER again,” one person shared.
“I work at a mall, this is my first holiday season working retail and they put my ass 3-9 and I work by myself,” a second recounted.
“Me at Starbucks…holiday drinks, red cup day, black friday,” a third wrote.
The Daily Dot reached out to Joshy Thomason for comment via TikTok comment and to Target via email.
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*First Published: Dec 2, 2022, 1:54 pm CST
Melody Heald is a culture writer. Her work can be found in Glitter Magazine, BUST Magazine, and more.
Out on the red earth plain, scattered with shards of thorny shrub, the graves are shallow. Not even a strong, well fed man or woman could dig far into this baked ground.
There are a few concrete marker stones with names scratched on and dates of death in the past month or so, but most are simple mounds of earth patted into shape over whoever lies below, and topped with bouquets of thorns. This morning, Minhaad Abdi Khalif was buried here, in a row, it looks like, of mostly children. But already the grave appears timelessly embedded in the landscape.
Her daughter had been very stressed, says Fadum Mohamoud Gure, who lived with her at the displaced persons (IDP) camp at Xaarxaar, south of Galkayo town in the region of Galmudug. Gure believes it was high blood pressure that killed her 38-year-old daughter, who was thinking sick about the lack of food for her hungry children. She had no medication for the condition, and was seventh of 12 siblings to die prematurely.
Minhaad’s 10 orphaned children sit on the ground around their grandmother, ranging in age from eight months to the eldest boy of 12. “She was a cattle farmer and came here when the cattle all died from the drought. Her first husband had died of cancer and her second died nine months ago. I don’t know why,” says Gure, who is 80, rocking the sharp-cheeked baby.
“Sometimes they eat and sometimes they don’t,” she says. “They drink water if they can and they try to sleep. We can sleep but the children cannot sleep because their hunger makes them scratch their bodies and then they wake up.”
Last year two other grandchildren, aged two and three, died of measles. Like pneumonia, measles preys on the weakness of a malnourished child. Around Galkayo town there are 74 camps and in this camp, which houses more than 10,000 people, children are dying. Acute malnutrition rates are running at 52% among under 5s, the highest in Somalia, and this region is on the brink of famine.
Asked how many funerals she has attended this year, Gure shakes her head: “A lot.”
Bashir Abshir Jama is a single father to Mohamed, four. He has been sitting in South Galkayo Hospital for three days with his 11-year-old daughter, Yusur, helplessly watching fever rack the body of the malnourished boy, who lies under a mosquito net hung askew over a mattress.
“Only God knows what will happen,” he says. “The children are my priority, of course, but finding work is hard. Sometimes you earn a little money, sometimes you don’t.”
The hospital has a stabilisation centre for malnutrition cases with severe complications, supported by the UN children’s agency (Unicef). Asked if he blames abaar – the drought – for Mohamed’s condition, his father shrugs. “The drought is everywhere, this place is no different, nowhere is any different. There is no place to go where there is not drought.” As of Wednesday, Mohamed’s condition remained critical.
Hani Ali Osman has just arrived at Degaan IDP camp east of Galkayo town. The single mother is with her three-year-old son, Suliman, who is disabled although no one has ever given her a name for his condition. About 700 people are already at the camp, having left homes and farms hundreds of miles away because of the drought. The food that is available has risen 125% in price since February, aggravating the severe hunger and child malnutrition. Osman has come from Beledweyne in Hiran district, which has seen a rise in attacks by Al-Shabaab militants and where drought has scraped the earth clean of plants and animals.
“There was no one to support me there so I came here. I was told there was food here,” she says. Suliman has been given protein paste at the medical tent and other women have gathered to help find them a place to sleep.
“[Osman] is vulnerable and so the community will make a contribution to help her. If we have space we will host her in our shelters,” says Malyaun Osman Omar. “It is best for her to stay here because some of the other camps have no toilets and lots of women get raped when they go to the bush.”
Omar is from the same area and clan as the young mother but she has her own worries because her daughter is severely depressed. Khadro Qalbi Abdullah’s mental health has deteriorated since her husband divorced her and left her alone with their four children, says Omar. Last week neighbours rescued her after she tried to burn down a shelter around her; they brought her here to her mother.
“She has a kettle,” says Omar, getting upset and covering her eyes briefly with her scarf. “That is it. That is all she has, she doesn’t even have a mat to sleep on. Last night she wandered off and left the children here alone.”
In the camps around Galkayo there is little evidence of any food. About 130,000 people are living in mostly empty shelters with bare earth floors, though a few people have sleeping mats or tarpaulins and many have brought a kettle.
Mohamud Adan Barte has built a raised platform for the sleeping mat of his 90-year-old mother, who is blind. He has seen too many puff adders slither through the tent to where Maryam Mohamud Gutale sleeps, and says he knows of five deaths in the camp from snake bites.
Barte, 65, is proud of his former life as a businessman dealing in livestock, and of the cement house that he built for his family. This is the first time he has been in an IDP. “This is the worst I have seen. The drought has borne down on the animals and left us like this – without any food. We came here two months ago but it is only a poor shelter we can build here. People come and register our names and ask questions but no one has anything to give us.
“My mother sleeps all the time and I am close to being blind, too, as my own eyesight is fading. It seems we are people left to die of snake bites and hunger and disease.”
Nafiso Mohamed Osman, 37, arrived in Degaan camp three days ago and has not managed to find a shelter for herself and her children. She is pregnant and feels nauseous from hunger. “I left my village because of the drought and was in a camp near Mogadishu, but my husband has gone and I left because of the explosions. I know no one here and I’m scared because there’s no food. But at least there are no explosions.”
Sadaf Asdinasir Hasi is receiving antibiotics to fight a severe infection in his leg. The 20-year-old was bitten by a snake two months ago in Degaan IDP camp. He and his family had travelled 150km (93 miles) to get here, fleeing the conflict and drought in their village, where Al-Shabaab militants forcibly recruit young men like Hasi.
Snake bites are one of the dangers of living in the camps, which are erected on plains where puff adders and other poisonous vipers live. The camp’s doctors have no antivenom and much of the skin on Hasi’s right leg has been destroyed by an infection caused by the bite, leaving him with a large open wound. He needs a skin graft or he could end up losing the leg, but he has no way of finding the $200 (£168) fare to travel the 750km (466 miles) to the hospital in Mogadishu.
Nuro Yusef is a 60-year-old birth attendant who says she has delivered about 500 babies in the Xaarxaar camp in the 18 months since she arrived here. “Babies are much smaller than normal now. A lot of pregnant women are aborting in the first trimester. The women are very hungry, so when they are giving birth they are very weak. They have a lot of difficulty getting their milk to come.
“But the big problem in the camps is that there is so little protection, especially at night,” she says. “There are no lights, no fences and violence and rape against women is a problem. When women go to fetch water or look for firewood or even to the toilet. If there is a rape or attempted rape, it is impossible to find the perpetrator and the men who do this know that.”