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Dispatch from the food lines

SHOWCASE | June 28, 2004

How long are the lines at the food pantries in your area? Do you know? Let's say they're really long. How do you cover that?

By Dan Froomkin



Earlier this month, The Columbus Dispatch published a seven-day series called "Lines of Despair."


Alan Johnson, Catherine Candisky and Jonathan Riskind's opening-day lead story, Over the brink and into poverty, describes how Dispatch reporters and photographers fanned out to six different food pantries over one week.


"In that one week, from April 26 to May 1, the number of Ohioans served by food pantries statewide — more than 150,000 — would have filled Ohio Stadium one and a half times. Nearly 2 million pounds of food were distributed — enough to fill 70 tractor-trailers."


What these journalists found in that week was a lot of human stories that illustrate what they call the "new poverty."


"This new poverty shows its face in Springfield, where a family of four eats popcorn and water for dinner — with peanut butter if they’re lucky; in Athens County, where a husband and wife work six jobs between them trying to make ends meet; and in Westerville, where a young mother repeatedly glues her own shoes together so she has enough money to buy new shoes for her two children."


In an article headlined Hunger gets a toehold in the burbs, they write that "hunger and poverty exist even in the tidy suburbs ringing Columbus. You just have to look harder."


They found Lisa Shilling, a single mother of two earning $7.68 an hour as an assistant Head Start teacher.


In a article  headlined When jobs vanish, fear consumes one’s days, they told the story of Amanda Fowler, who can't find work and whose husband is working without benefits at Taco Bell after losing his job as a tool-anddie maker.


This series plays out against the backdrop of a hit-and-miss economic recovery in a state that is considered a bellwether for the 2004 presidential election.


It's a story, therefore, of national significance. But it's really the stories that make it a story.




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