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Americans hungry during the holidays

Published time: December 28, 2011 22:32
Edited time: December 29, 2011 02:32

AFP Photo / Stephen Jaffe

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This Christmas you may have seen celebrities and other big names handing out free dinners to the homeless and there were plenty of news cameras to capture it.

But what happens when the Hollywood stars leave and the media forgets about the poverty problem? Unfortunately, the problem persists and those needing help think the media and Washington need to pay more attention at what is happening right under their nose.

Rosa Delgado, may be soft spoken, but the 20-year-old college student is tough and resilient.

“This year we don’t have much and this will be one of the only presents that we get this year,” said Delgado as she waited in a food line.

The Delgado family is among the many families who waited for hours in line to get a hot meal from a shelter in Los Angeles’ notorious Skid Row.

Delgado is carrying a heavy load on her shoulders, as she tries to make this a happier holiday season for her six young siblings.

Thousands of free holiday meals were served on Skid Row.  As evident by the long lines, there is definitely a great need.  Recent US Census figures show that nearly half of all Americans are considered to be poor.  As unemployment remains high and government social safety nets continue to be frayed, the fear is that in the future long food lines will only get longer.

“This, to them, is a miracle. Just to have a hot meal and a present to give their child,” said Maria Martinez, a homeless woman who also waited in line for hours in order to get a hot meal.

For some of the families waiting in line, that small miracle was something they had to ask for for the very first time.  any poor families in this country do work, but as food, housing and medical costs continue to rise, they’re forced to make tough choices.

“Do I pay for my housing? Do I pay for my food? Do I pay for the bus to get to work?  We’re seeing a lot of that is driving people to be potentially homeless for economic reasons,” said Herb Smith, president of the Los Angeles Mission.

Since the housing bubble burst, 4 million American homes have been lost to foreclosure. According to new government figures, 1.6 million children will soon be homeless.

On this particular day, news cameras show up for the perfect picture of celebrities and politicians handing out meals to the poor; but for those living on the streets and waiting in line for a meal, it shouldn’t take a red carpet event to bring attention to their year round struggle.

“There’s a lot of homeless out here. There are a lot of tents, cardboard boxes,” said Martinez. “People, they need housing. I think it is getting worse. Too many children and the economy is not good,” Martinez added.

Those harsh realities hardly get a mention in the mainstream media.  Instead, the latest iPhone app or crazed mall shoppers get the type of news treatment that usually results in money making ratings.

 Families like the Delgados are almost certain this country has misguided priorities.

“Instead of the US putting money towards citizens here, you’re putting it towards things that are not benefiting us like the war that’s going on right now,” said Delgado.

While more Americans are finding themselves living in poverty, the average pay for a CEO shot up between 27 to 40 percent – a discouraging trend that continues to divide this country.

In the meantime, the US economy continues to be afflicted by high unemployment,  the struggling housing market and the ongoing political wrangling in Washington DC — making it likely that the pain felt in 2011 will linger into 2012.