This MSNBC piece does a nice job of detailing the story. In the 70s, while we had certainly not conquered poverty, or racism, or sexism, we had put hunger on the back bench. Food pantries existed only as a rare "get me to that next paycheck" or rainy day source of food.
In New York, says Berg, there was so little need for emergency food services that in 1978 the city had only 28 operating feeding agencies. By 2014, that number had ballooned to about 1,000 agencies.That occurred across the country, of course, to the point that more people rely on food pantries for the bulk of their food. Meanwhile, Republicans and some Democratic allies have cut into that safety net to strengthen requirements, reduce benefits, and overall reduce the food available. What conservatives seem to miss is that when the economy goes down, a couple things happen. Not only does need go up, and with it pressure on non-profit private charities, but the same economic factors that harm the economy harm the very nonprofits that conservatives think will take care of the "truly needy."
Nonprofits rely on a lot of sources for their funding. Some of it is private donations, but I will bet you right now that there are very few successful ones that rely only on private donations. Most supplement donations with grants from other nonprofits and government grants. Of course, those other nonprofits have the exact same pressure as the food bank--more demand and fewer incoming funds. And also of course, we are cutting those federal and state dollars that the granting nonprofits use to help the variety of smaller nonprofits who serve people.
I am working with a nonprofit right now, though not one that is devoted to anti poverty. But it has given me a new insight into the pressures of that world. The constant push toward privatization means that more and more organizations are competing with more and more other organizations for fundraising dollars. Schools fundraise for equipment and books, competing with charities who feed the hungry, or house the abused.
I started to write "what bothers me more than the cruelty," but realized that was not true. The Republican cruelty toward the most vulnerable in our society bothers me the most. But second, I am stunned by the ignorance of most conservatives as to how government works. I truly believe they have no idea that federal money goes to the alzheimers daycare center that provides needed respite care for the families. Or that federal money combines with private money to assist the disabled.
Or just the simple fact that cutting food stamps means that people go hungry.