A new report released by the Mayo Clinic on Wednesday addresses the continuing problem of hunger in this country. Written by Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., the paper sheds some enlightening data on families coping with "food insecurity" in America.
America is considered the "breadbasket" of the world, and yet with all our wealth, one in six Americans are considered to be coping with "food insecurity," unable to partake of the loaves in that breadbasket.
What does "food insecurity" mean? It is now the politically correct phrase used to identify those people unable to get food or are uncertain of having enough food to meet their needs because of insufficient money or other resources. In other words, they are describing those of us living in poverty who don't have the money or other resources to get food to eat, and as a result, often going hungry.
The bare facts on hunger in America
Department of Agriculture figures show that 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children lived with food insecurity in 2012. That's 49 million people. Older Americans, ages 60 and over accounted for a whooping 8.4 percent, or almost 5 million of those coping with going to bed hungry. Surprisingly, only about 60 percent of food insecure households in 2012 participated in the three federal food assistance programs.
As most of us can guess, poverty can be directly tied into food insecurity. And the figures on the poverty level in this country are appalling. In 2012, 46.5 million people, that's 15 percent of the population, lived in poverty. It is unconscionable that in the U.S., anyone should go without a meal, at any time.
In early September of this year, the USDA released a report saying the food and nutritional assistance programs provided by the government had helped to increase food "security" between 2011-2012 with the addition of $6 billion to the program.
Actual USDA figures show no significant change in the level of food insecurity. According to the USDA, 14.5 percent of households faced food insecurity at least sometime during 2012.
“The change in food insecurity overall (from 14.9 percent in 2011) was not statistically significant,” they said. Additionally, figures in the “very low food security” category remained unchanged (5.7 percent) from the previous year, and “food-insecure” children also remained the same (10 percent).
High unemployment, low wages, crime, broken families and disability all play a role in the causes of poverty and hunger. Yes, we have Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and any number of federal food programs. But they don't seem to be helping to reduce the numbers of those families on the poverty or "food insecurity" rolls.
That we have a problem is without question. What we will do about it is another problem. It is time America rethinks how we deal with hunger in this country so that no individual need go to bed on an empty stomach.