Shoplifting is up markedly since the pandemic began in the spring and at higher levels than in past economic downturns, according to interviews with more than a dozen retailers, security experts and police departments across the country. But what’s distinctive about this trend, experts say, is what’s being taken — more staples like bread, pasta and baby formula…

Meanwhile, an estimated 54 million Americans will struggle with hunger this year, a 45 percent increase from 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With food aid programs like SNAP and WIC being reduced, and other federal assistance on the brink of expiration, food banks and pantries are being inundated, reporting hours-long waits and lines that stretch into the thousands.

Several federal food programs that have provided billions of dollars in fresh produce, dairy and meat to U.S. food banks also are set to expire at the end of the year. The largest among them, the Farmers to Families Food Box, has provided more than 120 million food boxes during the pandemic and is already running out of funding in many parts of the country.