Hunger in America

One of the goals Barack Obama set for his presidency was the elimination of hunger among children by 2015. Whether or not he achieves that goal, Obama is the first American president even to commit to achieving it. Having said that, he has a difficult road ahead of him, because more Americans — including children — are living with hunger at least some of the time:

The number of Americans who lack dependable access to adequate food shot up last year to 49 million, the largest number since the government has been keeping track, according to a federal report released Monday that shows particularly steep increases in food scarcity among families with children.

In 2008, the report found, nearly 17 million children — more than one in five across the United States — were living in households in which food at times ran short, up from slightly more than 12 million youngsters the year before. And the number of children who sometimes were outright hungry rose from nearly 700,000 to almost 1.1 million.

Among people of all ages, nearly 15 percent last year did not consistently have adequate food, compared with about 11 percent in 2007, the greatest deterioration in access to food during a single year in the history of the report.

The report — from the U.S. Department of Agriculture — is here (.pdf).

  

Author: KATHY KATTENBURG

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33 Comments

  1. Well, having Obama make such a pledge is just appealing the emotions of the emotional and the easily exploited. [yawn] Even a more common real-world goal I would like humanity to aim for, which is for clean, reliable, safe, secure drinking water for everyone living in UN nations, is still out of reach currently.

    I would say that the problem of hunger in the USA currently (including among children) isn't any radical, re-discovered “cause” by angry young (at heart) people, but rather an indication that the economy is far from the state of advance and recovery that the recent stock market and related behavior would indicate.

    This year's report is far from the first USDA report on the growth of hunger in this country. I wonder offhand not only what effect the economic slump has had on hunger, especially among those without jobs currently, or who have faced foreclosure and homelessness, but if this, too, has been seized and exploited for political reasons and sensationalism. (Probably, it has, given the record so far this year.)

    I certainly value the real-world hunger-fighting and honestly-rewarding nature of many urban gardens where it is practical and meets needs, rather than merely is a food-fashioneers' fad — using plots of land that have often been abandoned and would otherwise remain so. This is real, serious urban gardening.

    (Another real-world-related remark: I wish stimulus money had been given to these people so they could build greenhouses on the land and grow and harvest food year-round.)

    http://money.cnn.com/2009/08/06/news/economy/de

    http://www.whyhunger.org/programs/fslc/topics/c

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7495717.stm

    There is a current problem in some parts of the world with hunger that surpasses ours, and a current “World Food Summit” that I'm surprised wasn't mentioned.

    http://www.fao.org/wsfs/world-summit/en/

    Eliminating hunger, or making continued agricultural progress, to be more accurate, is something the late engineer of the Green Revolution after World War II lecture about admirably some time ago. Much has already been done, and there's not much of a mystery regarding what remains to be done.

    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/articl

  2. I waited for someone else to note it first — recall that Zandi's “bang for the buck” list of stimulus measures, the best example on hand of what the federal government could and arguably should have done with “stimulus” funds to attempt an economic resurgence after the slump, especially after Obama replaced Bush in office, included food stamps at the top of the list of most effective items.

    Example:

    http://www.economy.com/mark-zandi/documents/Hou

    The stimulus instead was mishandled, and has been widely seen as a failure.

    Perhaps food stamps will be reconsidered when the Obama administration holds the “economic summit” (post-stimulus-shame next-big-effort consortium) next month.

  3. To think that I spent all those years risking my life to feed and protect those hungry people around the world, when so many were hungry right here at home. I must have known inside, just failed to believe it.
    We can’t invite UNICEF here, but who would fund the program?

    http://www.unicefusa.org/

  4. This one is easy.

    Reduce all foreign aid by 10% until ALL children in America are adequately fed.

    The Mandate: No one ELSE gets a dime until we take care of our own FIRST.

  5. I'm all for efforts to try to combat hunger (although I would prefer to see them implemented at the state level, but that's a separate discussion) in the US. For a start, how about we don't lower the deduction for charitable giving, as Obama wanted/wants to do?

  6. FT,

    I don't mean to minimize the problem in the US, but I do want to reassure you that the hunger that exists in other nations far surpasses the hunger that exists in the US. The hunger rate in the US is measured by the number of people whose “eating patterns were disrupted at times”. Now, hunger is not something I'm willing to even risk getting close to the line, especially for children, so “eating patterns were disrupted” is still disturbing, but it is no where near the dire circumstances that people in third-world countries face. I'm happy to continue helping foreign countries with their hunger problems and ask the American public to step up to also help those who suffer here.

    An anecdote: I spent some time in Nicaragua among the very poor. People who lived in one-room huts with dirt floors and no running-water. We all know these places exist but nothing compares to seeing it in person (as maybe you have). After a few months there, I then took a 3 hour flight to Miami and sat in the airport there waiting for my connection, wondering to myself as I see people talking angrily on their cell phones, “Do these people even realize how good they have it? Do they know that if they have been born 3-hours to the south they might have been eating scraps while sitting almost naked in the dirt?” Strangely, it was a culture shock coming home–to my own culture! The culture shock has worn off, but hopefully I'll never forget the lesson learned.

  7. How awesome that you did that, AD. An experience like that really does change the way one looks at everything.

  8. The Mandate: No one ELSE gets a dime until we take care of our own FIRST.

    You would leave Israel defenseless against the children of Gaza, oh you cruel man…

    Who Gets U.S. Foreign Aid

    The U.S. will give an estimated $26 billion in foreign aid in 2008—70% more than when President George W. Bush took office (the figure doesn’t include funds related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). More than 150 countries get financial assistance from the U.S. Here are the six that received the most this year.

    COUNTRY AID PURPOSE
    1. Israel $2.4 billion Virtually all of this money is used to buy weapons (up to 75% made in the U.S.). Beginning in 2009, the U.S. plans to give $30 billion over 10 years.
    2. Egypt $1.7 billion $1.3 billion to buy weapons; $103 million for education; $74 million for health care; $45 million to promote civic participation and human rights.
    3. Pakistan $798 million $330 million for security efforts, including military-equipment upgrades and border security; $20 million for infrastructure.
    4. Jordan $688 million $326 million to fight terrorism and promote regional stability through equipment upgrades and training; $163 million cash payment to the Jordanian government.
    5. Kenya $586 million $501 million to fight HIV/AIDS through drug treatment and abstinence education and to combat malaria; $15 million for agricultural development; $5.4 million for programs that promote government accountability.
    6. South Africa $574 million $557 million to fight TB and HIV/AIDS; $3 million for education.
    7. Mexico $551 million Click here for details.
    8. Colombia $541 million Click here for details.
    9. Nigeria $491 million Click here for details.
    10. Sudan $479 million Click here for details.

    *Source: Estimates based on figures and documents from the U.S. Department of State. Click here for more information.

    Once you take out the military aid to Israel and various other right-wing regimes. we don't give all that much HUMANITARIAN AID.

  9. No. Reduce military retirement government welfare pay by 50% and feed the hungry here and around the world for free.

  10. That’s Right.

    Per capita, we are one of the stingiest nations on earth. I think it’s Denmark that is the most generous.

    Hell we don’t even take care of our own people.

  11. Thanks, Kathy. Just one more story I just remembered (sorry, I'm off topic, so you can ignore me): When I was there I bought a snickers bar from a food shop in town. I couldn't bring myself to eat the whole thing at once. Compared to some of the locals, that felt like too much of a luxury. Instead, every couple of days I would eat a few bites of it. It's not that I was trying to make some statement. I was in such a psychological state that eating more than a few bites at a time seemed just wrong.

    Anyway, enough about me. Sorry to go off on a tangent.

  12. My two bits — we multi-task poorly, and we should tend to the myriad problems within our own borders before mucking about elsewhere. We are hypocritical when we criticize others, yet ignore our own issues.

  13. –[every couple of days I would eat a few bites of it]–

    Bet that sucker was getting stale…..

    omg

  14. “Reduce all foreign aid by 10% until ALL children in America are adequately fed.”

    I'd also (for other, philosophical reasons) insist we work through clean-water and rural (and urban) electrification improvement programs (and niftier things we can afford to do now that we are highly developed, such as energy-efficiency programs like insulation retrofitting in structures) on the USA (such as in the ARC region, the Mississippi Delta country, etc., where we still need electricity and running water for everyone) before we “experiment” on others, elsewhere. (Which, elsewhere, should include revisiting and pursuit of additional measures that benefit us as well as “them,” such as a double-track Pan-American railroad as well as modern highway system.)

  15. “Strangely, it was a culture shock coming home–to my own culture!”

    I experienced that, even coming back (to California, a most-modern part of the USA) from Europe.

    Not only modernity, but size (fully apart from lefty stereotyping and malevolent-mythmaking) was an issue. Not just that things we consider trivial like drinking fountains are everywhere (the first thing I did when getting back to Oakland's airport was to use the drinking fountain!), but as I've written before, “Motel 6 is a palace.”

  16. “Bet that sucker was getting stale…..”

    Ha! I thougth it went without saying that I kept the thing in a freezer. Otherwise, i could have drunk it from a straw after a few hours.

  17. I don't even think that *is* a tangent. I think it's relevant. A very powerful anecdote. Thanks, AD.

  18. “Reduce military retirement government welfare pay by 50% and feed the hungry here and around the world for free”.

    (and another gem…)

    “Per capita, we are one of the stingiest nations on earth.”

    I am now convinced that you merely comment on TMV to get a rise out of people.
    You do not strike me as a serious debater or someone who actually cares about issues we discuss.
    Why?

    Because you can't possibly be that mentally challenged.

    Am I to believe that you want me and my comrades to give up our retirement? You know…. The one that we EARNED! Would you be willing to take Social Security away from senior citizens as well?
    Like I said…… MENTALLY CHALLENGED.

    And America is the stingiest place on earth? We are the MOST GENEROUS place on earth. In no other country do they spend what we spend on humanitarian aid from the government, and private aid from the citizens to other nations.
    Once again…. MENTALLY CHALLENGED.

  19. And America is the stingiest place on earth? We are the MOST GENEROUS place on earth. In no other country do they spend what we spend on humanitarian aid from the government, and private aid from the citizens to other nations.
    Once again…. MENTALLY CHALLENGED.

    ROTFLMAO…
    Think Again: U.S. Foreign Aid

    When U.S. foreign aid is measured on other scales, however, a different picture emerges. For example, the United States provided about $51 per citizen in official development assistance in 2002–03. That ranks it in 16th place among other major donors, behind Norway ($381 per citizen), the Netherlands ($203 per citizen), France ($96 per citizen), and the United Kingdom ($89 per citizen), among others. When aid is measured as a share of national income, the United States ranks dead last at 0.15 percent. Top givers include Norway (0.92), Denmark (0.84), Belgium (0.60), and Germany (0.28).

    Moreover, foreign aid constitutes only a small share of the U.S. federal budget—much smaller than most Americans think. Surveys show that most Americans believe the federal government devotes 15 to 20 percent of the country’s expenditures to aid. The actual figure is far less than 1 percent; that’s less than one fourth of the budget share of 1965.

    Combining public and private donations puts total U.S. development assistance in the range of $35 billion per year, or about 0.32 percent of U.S. income. In other words, for every $3 of income, the United States provides about one cent in development assistance. Even with this broader measure (and using the larger estimate of U.S. private assistance without making a similar adjustment for other countries), the United States ranks, at best, 15th among the top donors.

    Considering that we are barely willing to feed, clothe and educate the poor in our own country, what in heaven's name would lead you to believe that the US would give a rats' ass about starving children in other countries?

  20. DQ….

    I was talking about the citizens of America, not the government. I didn't realize that we were talking about government hand outs to other countries. And you keep referencing the “economic powerhouses” of Norway, Denmark, etc. Yes, France has some economic clout, but the rest are just moles on the butt of world economics.

    With that said, IMO, our Constitution does not allow for foreign aid in the first place. That's the reason I mentioned foreign aid in the first place. I believe we should do away with ALL of it, until our economic house is in order.

    But this gets away from my MAIN point that Father_Time is, indeed, MENTALLY CHALLENGED.

  21. The numbers in the report conflict with numbers I've read elsewhere, such as here (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-06-25-…) where it says the US gives 1.7% of GDP, far more than any other nation. I have no more reason to believe those numbers than I have to believe yours, but I'm curious if you know any reason for the discrepancy.

  22. I have no more reason to believe those numbers than I have to believe yours, but I'm curious if you know any reason for the discrepancy.

    You're comparing apple and oranges, the number I am talking about is foreign aid whether it's through the government or through private charity (Feed the Children, Oxfam, etc) versus the number your article is discussing which is all Charities whether they are giving to feed the poor in the US or Overseas, the gifts to local Medical institutions (Hospitals, Research centers, etc ) the gifts to the local Art organization (Museum, Theater, Opera, etc) and the gifts to educational institutions (Harvard, State Colleges, etc).

  23. I was talking about the citizens of America, not the government.

    Who do you think the government is if not the expression of the will of the people of the United States.

    I didn't realize that we were talking about government hand outs to other countries.

    What do think foreign aid is? Who besides Government has the ability to put that scale of resources together? And before you reply “Private Charities”, go through the papers and look at how many charity scandals there has been in the last couple of decades involving prominent televangelist raising aid money for Central America, Haiti and Africa.

    With that said, IMO, our Constitution does not allow for foreign aid in the first place. That's the reason I mentioned foreign aid in the first place. I believe we should do away with ALL of it, until our economic house is in order.

    A) Once you remove the military component out of our Foreign Aid, there is very little money there.
    B) You have to decide what the purpose of Foreign Aid is:
    1) Is it there to primarily advance the interest of the US,
    or is it there to supply humanitarian relief to people suffering a tragedy (Drought, Tsunami, War, Disease, etc..)

  24. Per Capita. You stingy, Hateful Christian government entitlement receiver.

    PER CAPITA, Denmark is the most generous of the donor countries.
    Meaning they give more per person than of any other nation on earth.
    THEY are truly a generous people.

    America…..not so much.

    duh

  25. DQ,

    Ah. I see. Thanks for clarifying that. I should have seen that myself.

    In that case, doesn't that somewhat discredit your claim that “we are barely willing to feed, clothe and educate the poor in our own country”? I admit we have problems (as the original post points out) but that statement seems like quite an exhaggeration. The vast majority of the poor in our country are able to access enough food and clothing (education is a different story and I would probably agree with you that the poor don't have enough access to it, but that's not because of an unwillingness to through a lot of money at the problem) and other necessities and non-necessities: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/bg1713

  26. In that case, doesn't that somewhat discredit your claim that “we are barely willing to feed, clothe and educate the poor in our own country”?

    Not at all… My guess and I haven't gone through the numbers is that most charitable contributions end up going to religious institutions (where do you think all the money to build and maintain all those churches come from?), cultural institutions (NPR, PBS, Local Museum, Opera, etc…) or high end educational institutions ( Harvard Endowment). Most of these organizations pursue worthy goals, but feeding, clothing, caring and educating the poor is not their primary mission, with the exception of a few honorable religious organizations.

    From Kathy's article:

    The nation's economic crisis has catapulted the number of Americans who lack enough food to the highest level since the government has been keeping track, according to a new federal report, which shows that nearly 50 million people – including almost one child in four– struggled last year to get enough to eat.

    Study links 45,000 U.S. deaths to lack of insurance

    Nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year — one every 12 minutes — in large part because they lack health insurance and can not get good care, Harvard Medical School researchers found in an analysis released on Thursday.

    The numbers speak for themselves, it's not that we unable to fix these problems, it's that we are unwilling to do so.

    BTW, when it comes to poverty don't listen to the Heritage Foundation, there has never been a bigger bunch of lying propagandist walking on the face of this earth.

    PS. They are also funded through Charity

    Your tax-deductible donation today to The Heritage Foundation will support our work as we strive to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish.

    And people who give to “The Heritage Foundation” are probably not giving to help the poor and the less fortunate. And that giving was counted amongst the Charitable Giving in the USA article.

  27. PER CAPITA, Denmark is the most generous of the donor countries.

    Father Time, you're only looking at government spending. Denmark is a more socialized country than ours, and their government writes a larger fraction of their checks. You've got to include private donations as well, in which (according to DQ's link) the US ranks #2.

    And geez, lighten up on the name-calling.

  28. –[And geez, lighten up on the name-calling]–

    Only answering in kind. Being generous actually, considering how I was treated.

    Not only are the Europeans more generous, they take care of their own people. Unlike `Merica

  29. . You've got to include private donations as well, in which (according to DQ's link) the US ranks #2.

    And when you read DQ's link, you get to observe that while we are the number 2 private giver and that when our private giving is combined with our government giving we barely make it to number 15…

    Even with this broader measure (and using the larger estimate of U.S. private assistance without making a similar adjustment for other countries), the United States ranks, at best, 15th among the top donors.

    Nothing to brag about!!!

  30. “Not at all… My guess and I haven't gone through the numbers is that most charitable contributions end up going to religious institutions… cultural institutions… or high end educational institutions “

    And that is compared to the same category of contributions from other countries.

    But fair enough. I'm willing to concede that Americans are not the most generous. My main objection is to your use of the words “barely willing”. You've cited that some children go without food (although it is more accurately worded “have their eating patterns disrupted”, but either way is not good). But showing that the outcome leaves a lot to be desired does not imply that Americans are “barely willing”. When I see all of the economic programs that exist for the poor, “barely willing” seems like a stretch. There are so many programs to help the poor that according to some economists, the effective marginal tax rate for someone trying to get of poverty (let's say, raise their income from 20,000 to 40,000 a year) is approaching or exceeds 100%. (Due to time I'm not able to provide a link for that but I can later if you dispute it).

    I think it just comes down to how you define “barely willing”, which clearly you define much more liberally than I. We'll have to agree to disagree on that.

    'BTW, when it comes to poverty don't listen to the Heritage Foundation, there has never been a bigger bunch of lying propagandist walking on the face of this earth.”

    I trust any source as long as they can back up their assertions, even if the organization itself is biased. The article is referencing government reports and makes reasonable conclusions based on them. The degree to which I appeal to authority (or lack of authority) depends on the degree to which I have the ability to analyze the arguments for myself (ie. global warming is an issue that I appeal to authority).

  31. the effective marginal tax rate for someone trying to get of poverty … is approaching or exceeds 100%

    A provocative statistic, AD. It certainly makes a mockery of DQ's claim, but…well…he's used to that.

    Would be interesting to hear some thoughtful reaction from the left.

  32. “You stingy, Hateful Christian government entitlement receiver.”

    So, anyone receiving retirement income is an “entitlement receiver”?
    I'll be a “government entitlement receiver” once I retire.
    Does that mean public sector retirees are “corporate entitlement receivers”?

    Thanks for proving my point that you are, indeed, MENTALLY CHALLENGED.

  33. “Not only are the Europeans more generous, they take care of their own people.”

    No….

    Their GOVERNMENTS take care of their own people – yet their homeless rates are comparable to ours. How did that happen? Our PRIVATE charities do more than most governments. And, as Dr. J. pointed out, puts 'Merica at #2 on Earth.

    You'll just have to learn to deal with that, Mr. Socialist.

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