Many Americans enjoyed a hearty Thanksgiving meal, but unfortunately many others are going hungry this holiday season. Nowhere in the US is the problem worse than in Los Angeles, where 10 thousand people camped out this week for a free turkey dinner.
It is difficult for Lisa Jones to plan beyond tomorrow.
“Lost my house, lost my business. Now I’m just kinda surviving,” said Jones as she waited in line for a free turkey in South Los Angeles.
She struggles to make it through the day. The mother of three is worried about her oldest son, who is fighting the war in Afghanistan. She is also among the millions of Americans who go hungry every day.
“You see families, you see the elderly, you see pregnant women,” said Tony King, a longtime volunteer at the turkey giveaway. “You see people with polio. You see people with diabetes, you see people who are dying,” Young added.
While eager shoppers camp out in front of retail stores on Black Friday, Jones slept on the cold pavement waiting in a different line for a holiday meal.
“I used to be a dog groomer. I used to have my own shop and now I do not,” said Jones. “I’m in desperate straits, so this is a God-send. This is my first year here,” Jones added.
Jones isn’t alone. The elderly and disabled are among the many people who wait patiently in this line in hopes of feeding their families.
David Brown lost his janitorial job after the firm he worked for shut down.
“We’ve been out here 3 nights now in the rain, in the cold, without hot chocolate, without coffee,” said Brown.
Also in line was, Juston Bartholomew, a soldier, who joined the US Army after losing his job in the financial industry. He can see that even members of the Armed Services are fighting an economic battle at home.
“For the soldiers who can’t get a job, keep your head up. Remember the oath we took. It’s bigger than just us,” said Bartholomew.
This year even the organizers of the giveaway needed a helping hand.
“We never had to go on TV to ask for donations. But sometimes God makes you do that to test you,” said King.
“Sometimes we run out of turkey and have to give out chickens,” King added as he tried to reassure the community that there will be enough to go around.
By sunrise, there were thousands of people in the line , which grew as far as the eye could see. It is just a microcosm of a hungry nation divided by the haves and have-nots.
“We haven’t spent enough time on job creation,” said US Congresswoman Maxine Waters. “All of this wrestling over whether the rich are going to pay their fair share is ridiculous. The rich should pay their fair share,” Waters added.
Government figures show that Los Angeles is still the worst place in America when it comes to food insecurity. Throughout the nation it remains a large problem with more than 49 million Americans struggling to feed themselves on a daily basis, 16 million of those are children.
“It’s amazing actually. Just so many people and we’re all in the same boat,” said Jones.
After waiting in line for 15 hours, in freezing temperatures and a rollercoaster of emotions, Jones received her free turkey can smile again knowing she’ll feed her family this holiday season.
“It just brightens up the rest of the day, the rest of the month and a half. All the way till Christmas cause this is a God-send,” said Jones.
As millions of Americans struggle to find work, hang on to their homes and feed their families, the fear is that even those who have been able to help in the past, may soon need a hand out themselves.