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Among the vulnerable, the virus stalks with hunger, too

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Food policy experts say that before the pandemic, roughly one out of every eight or nine Americans struggled to afford food. Now some say as many as one out of every four will join the ranks of the hungry as millions lose their jobs.

Ellen Knickmeyer and Jacquelyn Martin teamed up to put a heartbreaking face on those millions by spending an extended period with Janeth and Roberto, an immigrant couple on the outskirts of the nation’s capital who regularly skip meals to ensure their 5-year-old daughter has enough to eat. Their moving text and photo package, sensitively rendered, brought home how precarious life is for people living on the margins and how the social safety net fails to protect many of them.

Just one powerful excerpt: “On a good day recently, after Roberto landed four hours of work preparing take-home meals for a grocery store, they had enough for what constitutes a feast these days – a can of refried beans split three ways and two eggs each, scrambled. Janeth also made tortillas from their last half-bag of masa flour.”

The story received strong play with heavy reader engagement, and made front pages around the country. Within hours of the story being published, readers began reaching out wanting to know how to help the family. A typical excerpt: “I can’t afford a large amount of money, but can help with a few groceries. The story broke my heart.”

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