Editor's Note: All week, CNN examines the stimulus and looks at one of the greatest areas of concern for Americans: the economy. Today, our Christine Romans looks at how the stimulus is feeding some American families. And tomorrow on American Morning, can a $5.5 million resort town restoration project be a good use of stimulus aid? We find out why one woman is grateful the government is spending the money.
By Laura Dolan and Christine Romans
Pork: It's what's for dinner. Remember that well-known advertisement on television? Thanks to the stimulus package, it's now true for millions of Americans.
One hundred million dollars of stimulus money is filling the plates of struggling Americans, like Robert Carlucci from rural Franklin, North Carolina.
Carlucci, a single father of two girls, lost his job as a carpenter in December 2008.
"I never went without a job," he told us.
When he didn't have enough money to feed his daughters, he sought help from a local food pantry.
"I can't believe I'm here. I mean I'm usually the one who is donating around Thanksgiving time and Christmas time and going through my cabinets and making a box for my kids to take to school and now I'm here and I'm needing that and it was surreal," said Carlucci.
He's one of 18 million Americans out of work, and many are taking the same path.
The food bank that filled his pantry is one of thousands across the country who are struggling to meet the needs of their residents. Demand is up nearly forty-percent in some places.
That's where the stimulus money comes in.
The federal government doled out big contracts to well-known companies to make food for these pantries...quickly.
DelMonte received nearly nine million dollars to make canned peaches.
Jennie-O Turkey received seven million dollars to process turkey.
Wisconsin-based Lakeside Foods got the largest share of stimulus money, more than 21 million dollars. Most of it went to make nearly ten million pounds of canned pork. A smaller amount of the money was used to make canned beef.
In all, the 100 million dollars given to these food companies created 195 new jobs.
When asked why some stimulus money didn't go to struggling food companies, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture told CNN that vendors must meet certain requirements to do business with the USDA.
"Contracts were generally awarded to the firm that met all of the requirements and provided the least cost to the taxpayer," a spokesman wrote to us in an e-mail.
Kitty Schaller, the executive director of MANNA FoodBank in Asheville, North Carolina, says the stimulus dollars were well spent, saying, "It is not a waste of taxpayer money. The economic stimulus package has helped us to provide for the most basic needs for people who are truly in need."
That may be true, says Robert Rector, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, but he has a different take on the money.
"This is clearly a type of welfare. It's a welfare expansion."
Rector is not opposed to using some stimulus money for emergency use such a helping food banks, but he says the entire $787 billion package is a foot in the door for Democrats to expand welfare.
"It does help support people who've lost their jobs. But it's not going to put more jobs back into the economy."
Not so, says Cornell University economist Steven Kyle.
"Sure this is stimulating the economy. I mean that food is produced here in the United States. That stimulates the economy." He added, "Those farmers then end up with more money and they turn around and buy more equipment, hire more laborers, buy more imports and maybe buy themselves a new caterpillar tractor. Who knows?"
As for Robert Carlucci, he took that canned pork given to him by his local food pantry, saying, "My kids have to eat. We all have to eat."
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Complete coverage: The Stimulus Project