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Residents line up in their cars at a food distribution site in Clermont, Fla., Nov. 21. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Thousands of Americans waited in long lines at food banks in the week before Thanksgiving to pick up turkeys, canned goods, broccoli and other vegetables.

Why it matters: As the holiday season approaches, families across the U.S. are in need of food assistance due to chronic unemployment and economic hardship caused by COVID-19 — and many food pantries already served an unprecedented number of people this spring.

Zoom in: The Middle Georgia Regional Food Bank, part of the Feeding America Network, has distributed almost 3 million meals this quarter — 1 million more than the previous quarter before the pandemic began, NPR reports.

  • Los Angeles' First Unitarian Church expected roughly 1,000 people to line up this weekend, CNN reports, while people in DeKalb County, Georgia, lined up nearly five hours before one food drive opened.
Volunteers distribute turkeys and other food assistance in Clermont, Fla., Nov. 21. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Food Bank for New York City, Tracy Morgan, and Council Member Robert E. Cornegy Jr. distribute turkeys to Brooklyn families, Nov. 21. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Food Bank for New York City
Indiana National Guard members help distribute Thanksgiving meals at the Hoosier Hills food bank, Nov. 20. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Volunteers with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and the City of Orlando at Jones High School, Orlando, Fla., Nov. 20. Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Cars line up as Pantry 279 food bank distributes Thanksgiving meals in Bloomington, Ind., Nov. 21. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
People line up as Food Bank for New York City distributes turkeys to Brooklyn families, Nov. 21. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Food Bank for New York City

Go deeper

Updated Jan 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Off the rails: Episode library

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The first line of the Axios Manifesto is "Audience First." That's why we created our unique Smart Brevity style to get you smarter, faster, on topics that matter. But it also means we won't shy away from important stories that are worthy of more detail and more of your time, like our Deep Dives, Axios Investigates and now this deeply reported series, "Off the rails.” 

If you're in a hurry, check out the highlights:

21 hours ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

18 hours ago - Health

CDC director: “I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have"

CDC director Rochelle Walensky, newly appointed by President Biden, told Fox News on Sunday that the administration does not know the current number of COVID vaccines available for distribution — due to a lack of data gathered by the agency under Trump — making it more difficult for states to accurately plan.

Why it matters: Hospitals in states including Texas, South Carolina, New York, and California have canceled thousands of appointments due to running low on vaccines or nearly depleting their share, the New York Times reports.