Hunger in the USA

Hunger in the USA by Andre Kusumo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that in 2006:
1. 35.5 million people lived in households considered to be food insecure.

2. Of these 35.5 million, 22.9 million are adults (10.4 percent of all adults) and 12.6 million are children (17.2 percent of all children).

3. The number of people in the worst-off households increased to 11.1 from 10.8 in 2005. This increase in the number of people in the worst-off category is consistent with other studies and the Census Bureau poverty data, which show worsening conditions for the poorest Americans.


4. Black (21.8 percent) and Hispanic (19.5 percent) households experienced food insecurity at far higher rates than the national average.

5. The ten states with the highest food insecurity rates in 2006 were Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Arizona.

Andre offers a link to FRAC, the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit organization that seeks to address hunger issues and national policies about addressing hunger. The FRAC website offers a lot of information about hunger in the U.S., including state-by-state information.

Link to FRAC.


Lies About Hunger in the USA by Andrew Lingbloom


Why does such a great nation go hungry? Why, as pointed out in the article above, did 35.5 million live in food insecurity in '06? We have the "breadbasket of the world", the world's largest economy, and good ol' American gumption. Why are there so many hungry people in our country?

[note: italics in parentheses like this are editorial comments and most definitely not facts]

[Now, the book that fortunately collated all this information into one package is called World Hunger: Twelve Myths. However, I disagree with the usage of the word "myth" in this context. A myth is something most likely factually fictional but substantively meaningful. Myths are used exhaustively in history for religions and cultures. The lies spread - whether mistakenly or malevolently - about hunger are nothing like Hercules, dragons, or George Washington's apple tree]

I'd like to begin by dispelling some lies about hunger. Here are a few, with short summaries of supporting evidence:
  • There's not enough food to go 'round
False! In fact, there's enough grain to feed each human on the planet with thirty five hundred calories (FAO, 1993) [which, in my athletic heyday, was barely over the amount of food I ate - and that's just grain!].

  • It's not our fault!
Actually, it is. Nature pinches our pockets, but we have enough food to feed famine areas. A European example that many of us hold close is the Irish potato famine in the nineteenth century. Despite the widespread death, illness, and emigration, Ireland was still a net exporter of food (Crawford, 1997). Simply put, this is because the English overlords held the Irish in feudal chains and impoverished the indigenous Irish to the point the latter could only afford potatoes...and didn't lift a finger or slaughter a cow to help out their Irish neighbors when a million of them died of starvation. Angry yet?

  • The poor are helpless
Nuh-uh. One need look no further than our neighbor to the south, Mexico, to find a truly [and pretty awesome] example of an armed, but currently peaceful, revolution. The Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), or Zapatista movement, took swathes of territory in Chiapas and, through pressure on the Mexican government, won Chiapas' autonomy and several pieces of important civil-rights legislation. I wonder if they wear Che tshirts. The reader should know, though, that that's just one example...there are multitudes of other potent examples. With this, it becomes easy to see that the poor - and hungry - are highly motivated to change their situation. Thus, the rich nations of the world have to decide whether we'll keep the status quo by sitting on the couch eating McD's and Coke [One can 'eat' Coke because it's made of souls, not the sugar water they tell you it is] or we'll stand up and try to do something.

Those are just a few of the lies about hunger...and that's leaving out the ones like "NAFTA is good for the poor" and "The WTO is good for the poor". However, I'd like to move on to some of the reasons for hunger in the USA.

In a mostly free market economy like we have here, the ‘power to eat’ is tied to one’s economic power. We are increasingly urbanized and, even in what used to be the Wild West, we mostly live in concrete jungles without a subsistence garden to be seen. Thus, we are at an increasing disconnect from the land within which we live.

If we produce enough food within our own country to feed everyone enough food, why do folks still go hungry? The answer is economics. Wages are too low and prices are too high for people to afford to eat enough, let alone healthy and balanced diets [the foods we’ve talked about in class are expensive! You don’t get very much vitamin balance from a Quarter Pounder [Royal with Cheese in parts of Europe, because they use the Metric system] ]. What’s the answer to that, though? That I can’t answer, because it’s intensely difficult. Better education for better jobs? Food [rather than the purely nonsensical – and ridiculous – corn subsidies] subsidies? More social programs?

Maybe the next president, whoever it is, will have the answer. Most likely, though, we’ll have to scream and march to get it done. Well-behaved citizens rarely change anything [props to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich for the awesome original quote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”].