For some this economy may be turning around but the reality is millions of families are at risk of going hungry, in one of the richest nations on earth. In the past two years alone, the number of Americans visiting food pantries has jumped 30 percent. Over the last nine months, "Dateline" focused its cameras on how the Great Recession has impacted some of the poorest people in America – those who are the first to feel the downturn, and will likely be the last to feel the recovery.
For the report, "America Now: Friends & Neighbors," airing on Sunday, July 25 (7:00 PM/ET), "Dateline" anchor Ann Curry travels to Ohio where the hardworking poor, with deep traditions in mining, manufacturing and military service, are increasingly seen in food pantry lines ashamed and angry. Recently, the people of Southeast Ohio made pleas for jobs and food written on thousands of paper plates to President Obama. One message reads: "My husband worked hard all his life and he died hungry." Curry interviews people struggling with poverty and unemployment, and reports on what they're doing to make their lives, and their children's lives, better.
Their stories, and the images, push beyond stereotypes and reveal a hidden America that is both surprising and haunting but nevertheless, hopeful. While most television news reporting on the recession has focused on those with a voice and influence -- the middle class -- this hour-long look at how the recession has affected America's poor is a rare chance for viewers to get a comprehensive look at what poverty looks like over time in the heartland.
Viewers will hear from a woman who despite being poor herself, opened a food pantry, "Friends & Neighbors," that feeds thousands; a young mother who spent Ohio's cold month of November sleeping in a van with her children ages 1, 2 and 3; an extended family of 14 crowded into a 4-bedroom house to survive; and a father who was laid off and unable to pay for heat so he woke every two hours to feed the woodstove to keep his two young sons warm.