Flush with cash from an unstoppably robust economy, Americans are dining out so much it's a boom for bistros. "With more disposable income, you see people eating out more and enjoying life more," says Richard Martin, managing editor of Nation's Restaurant News.
But restaurants aren't the only ones feeding more people these days — ironically, so are food pantries and soup kitchens.
"A lot of our agencies are serving more and more working poor people, especially children," says Lisa Carr, director of public policy for Lutheran Services in America, which represents 280 social ministry organizations. "Our agencies are finding it hard to meet that need."
The persistence of poverty amid rising prosperity typifies the many contradictions of the current economic boom. Although millions of Americans have never had it so good, those at the lowest income levels are being squeezed harder than ever.
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