by Charlotte Beal
Just as consumers are starting to make their grocery lists for holiday dinners (and check them twice), they’re being reminded of a stark reality for almost 43 million Americans: Food is often hard to come by, especially now that the unemployment rate stands at 9.8%.
Consider these recent stats: In September 2010, more than 500,000 people were added to the food stamps program. Last year, Americans were joining the program at an average rate of 20,000 a day; in 2010 the rate jumped to 22,000 a day (USDA.gov, 2 December 2010). 17 million American children — nearly one in four — are food insecure (SesameWorkshop.org, 23 November 2010).
It’s tempting to draw a line between arugula-eating foodies and inner city single moms facing food deserts, but the horrific unemployment picture has blurred such stereotypes. Those lucky enough to have jobs feel a more urgent need to give to food banks or soup kitchens this year. Indeed, slow economic recovery seems not to have diminished charitable donations. One study found that 74% of consumers plan to give this holiday season and estimates that online donations will be up 30% from 2009 (Convio.com, December 2010).
While Christmas is associated with giving to those less fortunate, consumers are well aware that the pain won’t end on January 1. The time is right for brands, especially food and beverage ones, to turn the giving season into a giving year.