Hunger in America

It’s that time of year again. It was only a small blurb on the crawl of the news this morning: “Government hunger report shows 14.5% of American households lack sufficient food.” It was referring, of course, to the new USDA report on Household Food Security in the United States, which shows the highest numbers of food insecure households since the study was started in 1995.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that in this year of economic downturn there would be more people who are going hungry, but the numbers aren’t that rosy, even during the boom times. This year, however, 14.5% of American households translates into roughly 44 million people –  approximately the number of people living in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas put together. The summary statistics are convicting: food insecurity happens in every region, every type of family unit, and even across a range of incomes.

It is a silent tragedy.

And that, really, is the  real tragedy to me: the unreported and unappreciated nature of the problem. The people who represent us politically are in arms about reform which will grand Health Care to 30 million new individuals – a worthy goal – but a less expensive and perhaps more basic and critical problem that affects more people isn’t even talked about. What if we spent 14.5% of the proposed cost of health care reform on programs to provide decent food to those in need?

Many of us don’t want to confront the reality that people in our country – people in our states and in our cities – are going hungry when we spend $4 dollars on a cup of coffee and $7 on a hamburger. There are times when some of us will spend more in one meal than the USDA “thrifty food plan” allots for a week (about 37 dollars). In fact many of us would find it difficult, if not impossible, to eat for a whole week on $37.

We like to call ourselves the greatest country in the world – the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are also, it seems, the home of the hungry.

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