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Without Government Aid, Americans in Need Are Shoplifting Food Essentials

Plus, Colin Kaepernick gets his own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, and more news to start your day

Grocery store shelf filled with dried and canned beans. Photo: Niloo/Shutterstock
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

More people admit to shoplifting what they need to survive

Since the pandemic began, Americans have called for relief for individuals and small businesses. Stimulus checks, rent and mortgage cancelation, and universal health care have all been on the table. But aside from $1,200 months ago, we’ve gotten none of that, and the latest stimulus package is woefully inadequate. So, as the Washington Post reports, more people than ever have resorted to stealing essentials like bread, baby formula, and diapers to survive. Honestly, what did the government expect?

WaPo says there’s been a 45 percent increase in the number of Americans facing hunger this year, up to 54 million people. Lines at food banks have been miles long for months, with many saying that mutual aid groups and donations can’t keep up with demand. And with SNAP and WIC programs cut back, that means a lot of people have no other option but to steal. “I used to think, if I get in trouble, I’d say, ‘Look, I’m sorry, I wasn’t stealing a television. I just didn’t know what else to do. It wasn’t malicious. We were hungry,’” said one woman. “It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s what I had to do.”

Of course, capitalism pits the interest of those in need against those in business, and independent grocers worry they’ll have to close if they continually lose money to crime. But the problem isn’t hungry people trying to slip bags of rice by the cashier, it’s a governmental, financial, and societal system that time and again fails the most vulnerable — including small business owners. Things like baby formula and basic nutrition are essential. And if the government wants to curb “crime,” providing people people with what they need to survive would be a good start.

And in other news...

  • Tom Cruise apparently sends his A-list friends a much-desired coconut cake for Christmas every year, but you can also just buy one from the bakery and avoid meeting Tom Cruise. [EBT]
  • Startup food brands are finding weird ways to get you samples. [Modern Retail]
  • Sales of food with hemp and CBD in them are down 75 percent this year, as buyers realize maybe what they really need is therapy. [FBN]
  • After slashing its menu, Taco Bell is bringing back the loaded nacho taco. [Thrillist]
  • Butterball is cutting 450 jobs from a Missouri turkey processing plant. [FBN]
  • Ben & Jerry’s is creating a non-dairy ice cream in honor of Colin Kaepernick called “Change the Whirled.” [CNN]
  • Farm workers are suing over a proposed wage freeze for workers on the H-2A visa. [Modern Farmer]