Hunger in America

In a sure sign the recession is far from over the Department of Agriculture reported that close to 50 million people in the U.S. are going hungry, the highest number since the agency began tracking what it calls “food insecurity” in 1995. With the report basing itself on 2008 data when unemployment hovered at 7 percent, today’s 10.2 percent unemployment points to an increasing hunger crisis.

“Food insecurity” is government speak for empty bellies and comes out of the Reagan administration’s denial of the existence of hunger in America. It was then that academics, bureaucrats and policy wonks settled on the term as a euphemism for hunger. The USDA report did not use the term hunger, however, President Obama did, calling it, “particularly troubling” as it relates to children. “Hunger rose significantly last year,” said the president.

Over 500,000 children face “very low food security” according to the study, and increase of close to 200,000 since the last report.

Overall 13 million more Americans go hungry than before with the largest number in the South, the West, the Midwest, followed by the Northeast. Predictably, Blacks and Latinos suffer the highest percentages with 26 and 27 percent going to bed with empty stomachs. Single mothers and their children are the greatest victims of the crisis.

President Obama who called for ending child hunger by 2015 urged stepped up measures to address the problem, stressing the need for jobs. “My administration is committed to reversing the trend of rising hunger,” he said, “The first task is to restore job growth, which will help relieve the economic pressures that make it difficult for parents to put a square meal on the table each day.”

Rising food prices in 2008 along with unemployment are seen as chief causes of the crisis.

Conservatives continued to question the data but even the Wall Street Journal had to admit that “Still, the USDA survey indicates that someone in about one-third of food-insecure households experienced some hunger or came very close to it in 2008. In these households with very low food security, food consumption fell and normal eating patterns were disrupted.”

Union leaders, civil rights groups, and community organizations are increasingly calling on Congress and the Obama administration to implement programs to promote employment, including public works jobs.




Joe Sims
Joe Sims

Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA. He is also a senior editor of People's World and loves biking.