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Food Banks Struggle As Demand Rises And Supply Falls Short; Cuba Dangles Shark Tourism As Way To Lure Visitors Back; Cristiano Ronaldo First Men's Player To Score In 5 World Cups; French Bulldog Crowned Winner At National Dog Show. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 24, 2022 - 15:30   ET




ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: Many who struggle to pay for their Thanksgiving dinners rely on food banks to get their meals. Now last year, more than 53 million Americans needed food assistance to get by, according to Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks and pantries. And now many of those food banks say that they're seeing even more people coming in for help.

Joining us now is Trisha Cunningham, the President of The North Texas Food Bank. Tricia, thank you so much for being with us on this Thanksgiving. Many food banks are reporting that inflation has hit them really hard and of course, more families are needing assistance. What are you seeing?

TRISHA CUNNINGHAM, PRESIDENT, NORTH TEXAS FOOD BAN: We're seeing the exact same thing. Back in March of this year, we started seeing the needs increase and we've seen a-17 percent increase from March through this year. We're distributing at levels even higher than the pandemic.

During the pandemic, we were probably providing access on average to a little over 10 million meals per month. That is now up to 12.3 million meals per month. Just because people can't make ends meet.

MARQUARDT: Have you had to change the kinds of foods that you're giving or the amount? I mean, I saw -- I was reading a report that some food banks have switched to chickens, for example, instead of turkeys.

CUNNINGHAM: It is difficult. Supply chain issues are not only impacting retailers and consumers, but they also impact food banks as well. And yes, we make trade-offs. If we can get one type of product, let's expensive in the same category than the other type, then that's what we're going to do.


We're plagued right now, though, with a lot of cancelations because manufacturers are having a hard time getting the materials for their supply chain, which leads to canceled loads, which then means that we have people that could potentially go hungry. We are providing the needs out into the community right now at a level higher than ever because we have so many families that just can't make ends meet. About 40 percent of them are dipping into their savings that they had tucked away for harder times just to be able to buy food for their families.

MARQUARDT: And Trisha, how does this compare to all the difficulties that you saw during the pandemic?

CUNNINGHAM: This is very different. During the pandemic, what we saw was an immediate shift, immediate job loss. People that were in the gig economy did not have their jobs anymore, and they had to turn to foodbanks because they were making it from week to week. What we're seeing now are many people that were making it not only from week to week, but they were able to make it very comfortably.

But if you look at the fact that you see transportation costs and rent, typically makes up about half of a budget. Now it's eating into about 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent of budgets, which leaves less money for food. So there's many more middle class families that are needing assistance that have never even needed it during the pandemic.

MARQUARDT: There are some people hesitant to go to a food bank even though they really need help. What would you say to them?

CUNNINGHAM: You know, the food bank is here to ensure that everyone has food on their table and everybody needs a little help sometime. Food insecurity is very complex, but feeding people isn't. As long as we have the resources, we're going to continue to provide those meals on the table. And we have a whole host of food pantries and local communities that are right there ready to serve. As a matter of fact, this year we changed our holiday distributions to be more community based, so it would be easier access for all the many people that now need food assistance.

MARQUARDT: And between Thanksgiving and other holidays, there is a spike in goodwill. What do you recommend people do? What can they purchase, what can they donate to help food banks like yours?

CUNNINGHAM: You know, the best thing for us right now is to be able to donate funds. Food banks can typically turn that dollar of resource into multiple meals because we will try to leverage the best that we can in our supply chain to be able to provide the maximum benefit of that dollar of resource. So that's the best.

But, obviously, giving food is another thing you can go and do. Go to a food bank website. Ours is, and we have on there a list of the type of items that we need. Every food bank has that across the country where you can see what you could do. Maybe a one item specific drive, maybe for peanut butter, that makes it easier for food banks to bring it in, check it, sort it, get it kitted, and get it out to their feeding network, which we have about 400 partners in our community.

Advocating is a great way as well. If you don't have the resources to give money, you can always let your legislators know that they need to be supporting hunger policy. We have many programs available to individual families as well as food banks during the pandemic that are no longer there. And so it's created a bit of a hole in many food banks like us.

We're working on a deficit budget right now because we also don't have the donations coming in that we had during the pandemic. So we've got to be able to get to more sustainable method to be able to serve the needs that are heightened in the community.

And then finally volunteer, and not just during the holidays. We need volunteers after the holidays as well as we need them during the holidays.

MARQUARDT: Tricia Cunningham, thank you so much for joining us and thank you for everything you do. Trisha Cunningham from the North Texas Food Bank. Happy Thanksgiving.

CUNNINGHAM: Thank you, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Now, would you swim with sharks and not in a cage? Officials in Cuba are hoping that the answer is yes, and are looking to lure tourists back to Cuba with the opportunity to jump into their shark-infested waters. And we're going to be diving in, that's next.



MARQUARDT: Cuba is betting on bull sharks to help lure tourists back to the island post-pandemic. CNN recently visited a government run dive center in eastern Cuba that is being billed as one of the few places in the world where scuba divers can swim with the sharks in the open ocean without protective cages.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has more.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Usually they are the last thing you want to see in the ocean. But sharks are the reason why we have come here to the waters off eastern Cuba. We're hoping to see the predators up close and with no cage.

Local guides say this is the only place in Cuba, perhaps one of only a handful in the world where divers can safely swim alongside bull sharks. We are taking them at their word, praying the sharks had a big breakfast. Bull sharks are considered some of the most aggressive in the world, but the ones we see seem mostly curious. Swimming around me for a closer look before gliding away.

Guide Lazaro says they want to teach visitors to respect sharks and to protect them.


The shark is the perfect machine, and the perfect predator, he says. It's inspiring, emotional and satisfying to interact with them.

Marine biologists say robust shark populations are necessary to maintain healthy coral reefs. In 2015, Cuba placed restrictions on shark fishing, one of an increasing number of countries in the Caribbean to realize that sharks are not only important to the environment, but a way to track visitors.

(on-camera): People in the Caribbean used to commonly catch and kill sharks, either for food or because they were considered a nuisance. But warmer countries in this region are now taking steps to protect sharks. It's not just about conservation, shark tourism, visitors specifically, coming to a country to dive with sharks, can generate millions of dollars in revenue.

(voice-over): Just before her first dive with sharks, Canadian tourist Carrie tells us she's been terrified of them ever since seeing jaws.

CARRIE PREVOST, DIVING WITH SHARKS: I watched the movie very young, and I was even afraid to swim in pools, let alone the ocean. So this is a challenge to overcome.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Guides spearfish to attract the sharks, but are careful to use the minimum bait necessary. They say they've never had an attack involving a climb or guide, and that people who come to dive here gain a new perspective on sharks.

It's the myth of the shark being dangerous, a man eater that is aggressive, he says. Then you manage to see a shark a meter and a half away from you. And when you come out of the water, they say, this is the best I've of my life.

The sharks we swim with are undeniably powerful and also incredibly beautiful. At the top of the food chain, but never seeming to threaten us.

(on-camera): And they said, a shot of adrenaline in your arm. They were not kidding. I wouldn't admit to being afraid, but they were very impressive creatures.

(voice-over): Creatures that there are now more and more reasons to try and protect.


MARQUARDT: Hard to look past that myth. Our thanks to Patrick Oppmann in Cuba.

Now the upsets just keep on coming. World Cup fans around the world, those upsets keeping them on their toes. We'll be live in Qatar next. Stay with us.



MARQUARDT: The excitement is already building for Friday's World Cup matchup between the United States and England. It will be their third ever meeting in the World Cup. And this year's tournament has already been full of surprises and upsets. Right now, Brazil is beating Serbia two nil. And we may have just seen the goal of the tournament. Their second goal, an incredible scissor kick. Don Riddell, host of CNN World Sport is in Doha. Don, it's been a very exciting day, starting with Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo making history.

DON RIDDELL, CNN HOST, WORLD SPORT: Yes, absolutely. Of course, everybody knows about Ronaldo. Excuse me. It sounds like I've been cheering a lot. I wonder why. Yes, Ronaldo scoring a penalty in Portugal's 3-2 win against Ghana today, making him the first man to score in five different World Cups. He's also now the oldest and youngest goal scorer for Portugal at the World Cup.

And what do you know? When he was 21, he started with a penalty. And at the age of 37 today, he got another penalty. There's a lot of drama going on with Ronaldo at the moment. I think he and his team will be glad they've got this first game out the way and it's a win. And hopefully they can go on at least he's hoping and win the World Cup, which is the one trophy that alluded him.

MARQUARDT: Let's look ahead to tomorrow. What do you expect between this head-to-head between the U.S. and England.

RIDDELL: Well, it has the potential to be an absolutely epic. It's only the third time they've played in the World Cup. The Americans beat England back in 1950, which was a huge upset they drew when they played in 2010. You know, these players all know each other. Five of the American players play in the Premier League, so I would expect it to be very competitive. And it is projected to be the most watched game of soccer in U.S. broadcast history.

Of course, it's coming on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. So a huge television audience, a lot of excitement around this game. And who knows what will happen. England started off with a big win against Iran, winning 6-2. The Americans lost a winning position against Wales in their opening game.

So the Americans really looking to get something more out of this match. But I think it really should be a great game done.

MARQUARDT: Don Riddell, we are very envious of that assignment. It has been a terrific tournament so far. Don Riddell in Doha, thank you so much.


MARQUARDT: Well, another Thanksgiving Day tradition is the National Dog Show. We'll tell you which pup was crown top dog, that's next.



MARQUARDT: There's a new top dog in town. The 21st Annual National Dog Show has a champion, and his name is Winston.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The French bulldog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, David, you were right. And look at this. No one happier. They have cornered the market on energy, enthusiasm, and just pure spark.


MARQUARDT: Look at Winston. What a good boy. The French bulldog is co- owned by L.A. Chargers defensive linemen Morgan Fox. This breed has been best in show in that lineup three times, but has never claimed victory. Now, this year's competition also included three new breeds the Bracco Italiano, the Russian Toy and the Mudi.

Now, the National Dog Show takes place every year, the weekend before Thanksgiving and then airs on Thanksgiving Day.

Now, let's talk about nine lives. TSA agents in Orlando found a real cat stuffed inside a piece of luggage. The agents discovered the kitty last week as the suitcase rolled through security. The flight originated at New York's JFK Airport, and the cat, named Smells, thankfully survived the three-hour journey unharmed. The passenger who owns the luggage later told TSA that the pet belonged to another member of the household and that it must have snuck into the suitcase.

That does it for me. I'm Alex Marquardt. Thank you so much for joining me on this special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving. Take care.