Almost 50 million Americans, including nearly one in four children nationwide, struggled to get sufficient food last year, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on November 16, 2009. The levels were the highest since the government began tracking the problem in 1995.
The Department’s annual report on Food Security in the United States for 2008 found that an additional 12.9 million people were added to the ranks of the “food insecure” since 2007. As of the end of last year, USDA’s Economic Research Service found that a total of 49.1 million people in the country had insufficient resources for food, with some 14.6 percent of all households in the U.S. affected.
Overall, about one-third of all struggling families – some 6.7 million households encompassing 17.3 million people – experienced “very low food security,” or what the government used to call “hunger.” USDA states that for persons in very low food security households “normal eating patterns … were disrupted and food intake was reduced.”
Children bore the brunt of the increases in 2008. The number of children in food insecure households jumped to 17 million last year from just over 12 million in 2007. A total of 22.6 percent of all children in the nation faced uncertainty in getting enough to eat. People of color were also disproportionately affected by food insecurity. Among Blacks, more than a quarter (25.7 percent) of households were food insecure. In the Hispanic community, the rate was 26.9 percent. Both groups were more than twice as likely as white families to be food insecure.
President Barack Obama found the news unsettling and noted that job losses and economic instability “make it difficult for parents to put a square meal on the table each day.” Tom Vilsack, Obama’s Agriculture Secretary, added, “It’s no secret. Poverty, unemployment, these are all factors.” The sobering statistics may also stir up some action. “These numbers are a wake-up call … for us to get very serious about food security and hunger, about nutrition and food safety in this country,” stated Vilsack.
Meanwhile, the government, food banks, and emergency food providers try, with the resources at hand, to get food to the tsunami of hungry families showing up at their door. “The [food security] survey suggested that things could be much worse but for the fact that we have extensive food assistance programs,” USDA Secretary Vilsack told the media. “This is a great opportunity to put a spotlight on this problem.”
Anti-hunger activists were saddened more than surprised by the government’s statistics. “What should really shock us is that one in four children in this country lives on the brink of hunger,” noted David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World in Washington, D.C. For his part, Secretary Vilsack concluded that hunger is “a problem that the American sense of fairness should not tolerate and American ingenuity can overcome.”
To learn more, see the USDA report on Food Security in the United States at: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/.
Among bills recently introduced in the 111th session of the U.S. Congress are the following:
Senate (S.) 2749: Introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the proposed Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act would increase the number of meals allowed to be served daily to children in the Child and Adult Care Food Program and increase meal reimbursement rates.
For bill summary and status information, along with the text of legislation, visit: http://thomas.loc.gov/ and enter the bill number.
From Foodlinks America, published 24 times a year by California Emergency Foodlink in Sacramento, CA and distributed by Weinberg & Vauthier Consulting, 122 South Main Street, No. 9, Burnet, TX 78611; Zy Weinberg and Barbara Vauthier, Editors; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.For archived issues of Foodlinks America, go to: www.tefapalliance.org. To request a free subscription to the newsletter, submit story ideas, or unsubscribe, contact Barbara Vauthier at: email@example.com.