The freezing temperatures across the country mean higher heating costs for everyone. Many low-income families are struggling with this increase in prices. They are already under the strain of trying to afford food.
Last year 47 million hungry Americans lost food stamp benefits, and Congress may be bringing more cuts to the table. Needy families are placed in the awful situation of having to choose between heat or food.
The combination of this winter's "polar vortex" with the cuts in food stamps has created a perfect storm of increasing hunger in America.
Feeding America's CEO Bob Aiken says, "The high cost of heat this winter due to prolonged and brutal cold spells will strain many household budgets and send more people to food pantries, soup kitchens and other emergency-food charities."
In a study released prior to the cold spell, Feeding America said about 46 percent of its clients "report choosing between paying for food and paying for heating fuel or other utilities." With the massive drop in temperatures this winter, this figure is likely much higher.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, temperatures have been in the single digits or below zero multiple days this month. Sarah Cook of the Freestore FoodBank says, "We are seeing more people right now because of utility issues. "
However, the Freestore and other food banks across the country face dwindling donations following the holidays, making it tougher to keep up with any increase in demand. In addition, with the cuts in food stamps, hungry Americans are turning to food banks for more support than ever. Food banks, even with the generosity of its donors, cannot make up the difference for major cuts in federal food aid.