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article imageHunger thrives in the world's richest country

By Karen Graham     Aug 18, 2014 in Politics
One in every seven Americans relies on food banks, soup kitchens or other food initiatives just to get by on a daily basis. The numbers include more than 46 million people, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors, according to a recent study.
The authors of the study, Feeding America, is a non-profit organization with a network of 200 food banks that distribute donated food to programs in all 50 states. The study was done using confidential surveys of 60,000 recipients of food aid from groups affiliated with Feeding America. Feeding America serves over 46 million people through 58,000 pantries, meal service programs, and other charitable food programs.
Bob Aiken, the chief executive officer of Feeding America called the results of the study "alarming," saying, "It means that people in America have to make trade-offs. They have to pick between buying food for their children or paying for utilities, rent and medicine."
Too many military families rely on food banks to feed their families in this country.
Too many military families rely on food banks to feed their families in this country.
screen grab-NBC News
Aiken pointed out that America's hunger problem covers every county in every state and includes the whole of the socio-economic strata. It includes urban, suburban and rural locales. Hunger doesn't pick a particular age, nationality, color or economic group.
The study, Hunger in America, 2014, is the sixth and most comprehensive study to date. The demographics provided by the study are used to help in developing programs and solutions that will improve food security for individuals and families across the nation.
Even though the recession has ended, and unemployment rates are down, the findings of the study showed that food insecurity is still disproportionately high throughout the country. The study also found that stereotypes of the people needing food assistance are misleading. Linda Patterson, executive director of Lorton Community Action Center in Virginia, said: "The people who come here are hard workers. They are employed. They are the school bus drivers, the lab techs in doctors’ offices, receptionists, the janitors who clean the floor of your children's school. They just can't make ends meet because some kind of crisis has hit them."
Changes in the face of hunger over the past 50 years
In 1968, a CBS documentary aired in conjunction with President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. At that time in our country, 10 million Americans, or five percent of the population were considered to be hungry, or food insecure. While the unemployment rate stood at four percent, the number of food insecure people nearly matched that the unemployment rate.
any people felt the hunger rate was not too much to worry about, after all, it accounted for only one in 20 people being hungry. Today, based on the Feeding America study, things are very different, and not improving.
At least 7 million elderly Americans are food insecure.
At least 7 million elderly Americans are food insecure.
Looking at total numbers from 1968 and 2014, the biggest difference is the sheer numbers of people. We are looking at 46 million as compared to 10 million. Today's figures suggest that 15 percent of the population is food insecure, and double the unemployment rate, as compared to five percent in 1968.
According to the article in National Geographic, in 2006, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed "hunger" to "food insecurity," which shifted the focus from counting people who were literally starving to those who were finding it a problem trying to stay fed. Before 1968, hunger was assessed by using physical symptoms, like stunted growth or being underweight.
That all changed in 2006. Now people are assessed based on if they have ever been hungry. Have they missed meals, worried about not having enough food to last until the next payday, actually run out of food, or gone to bed hungry? These questions led to some startling results, and hunger began to be looked at in a different light. Even though the wording was changed, the means of assessing the problem basically remained the same, so statistics from before 2006 are comparable to today's statistics.
Looking at the demographics of food insecurity
The demographics of food insecurity tell an interesting story. For example, the study found that of people who use food banks, 26 percent are black, 20 percent are Hispanic, 43 percent are white and 11 percent are from other races. Look at the following:
* 29 percent are below the age of 18.
* 49 percent have more education than just a high school diploma.
* 20.3 percent have a household member in the military.
* 34.3 percent are unemployed because of a disability or they are retired.
* 55 percent are on the SNAP food assistance program.
* 86 percent have exhausted their benefits within three weeks.
These figures lead many people to believe the problem may be one of a failure of wages to keep up with the cost of living, or in a word, inflation. The other problem is the rising cost of food prices. So even though more people have jobs, the continuing rise in the cost of living and food prices makes it difficult to keep nutritious food on the table. It points to the hard truth of it really mattering how much income you have.
More about United States, Hunger, Feeding america, Food banks, processed food
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