I think part of it is people have a real problem understanding just how long you could survive on starvation level food levels. So long as you have water and heat, you could survive years on starvation food levels. Your farm animals are all dead, so, they got eaten. Pests and pets are now gone. The people are down to boiling boot leather for calories.
Survive doesn't mean in comfort.
I think it is fair to counter that though with a bit from the OP. He mentioned that the text says "the taverns are abuzz" which immediately raises some red flags if everyone is at the "boil boots for calories" stages of starvation. Especially in a place where that means guaranteeing frostbitten feet.
The story would be far darker if we were dealing with that level of starvation, and it seems the tone does not match with that idea.