We are all gung-ho about doing our part to create a better world. But how can a nation wholeheartedly get into the necessary mindset, when it cannot take care of its own citizenry. The first major problem are the basics to survival: Food, Clothing and Shelter. Today I will talk about Hunger in America.
The Current State of Things:
Hunger is defined as the pain or uneasy sensation caused by the lack of food. Most, when referring to hunger in America, mean: "the ability of people to obtain sufficient food for their household. Some people may find themselves skipping meals or cutting back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase at the stores. This recurring and involuntary lack of access to food can lead to malnutrition over time.¹" The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that in 2008 there were 49.1 million Americans living in food insecure households. More disturbingly, 14% of adults and 23% of children in the United States will go hungry at some point in their lives. More specifically, in your circle of ten closest friends, one of them will go hungry at some time. On top of that, due to the social shame and stigma associated with the inability to provide for one's self and family many people will not ask for help when they need it.
Malnutrition in other countries, third and second world, has obvious and pronounced symptoms. The inflammation of the eyelids, withering of muscle tissue, xerosis of the skin and bloating of the stomach cavity scream malnutrition; but in a first world country the signs are not as obvious. The mental and physical changes that accompany inadequate food intakes can have harmful effects on learning, development, productivity, physical and psychological health, and family life. The ability to obtain enough food for an active, healthy life is the most basic of human needs; and it has gone overlooked by mainstream society for too long. A high number of food insecure households in a nation with our economic plenty means that the benefits of our economy, and the variety of public and private programs for needy people, are not yet reaching millions of low-income people who are at great risk of succumbing to malnutrition.
The Current Solution:
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA for the rest of this post), the United States produces 100 billion dollars in crops and another 100 billion in livestock each year². According to a 2004 study, by the University of Arizona Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, between forty and fifty percent of food prepared in the United States is thrown away. Be it directly from harvest to preparation; the study also showed that the vast majority of it was perfectly fine to eat. On top of that, with just a few corrections to the document depreciation could save both consumers and manufacturers billions of dollars a year³. According to a local source, employed with a nationwide restaurant chain, at least 60 pounds of edible food is thrown out each night at close; this is after the employees fill their bags with what they wanted and could store conveniently at home. This practice, multiplied for every restaurant in a town results in tons of food waste for a moderately sized city. Across the entire country, the numbers are almost unfathomable.
Though it is worth noting that there are some restaurants and chains that actively donate to food banks and charities to help reduce the numbers of hungry people around the country. To name a few: Red Lobster, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and The Capital Grille, to name a few. (A complete list is available at Who Donates). The National Restaurant Association has partnered with the Food Donation Connection, a liaison between the food service companies interested in donating leftover food and the social service agencies that provide feeding programs for people at risk of hunger.
Other organizations, like Feeding America and the Society of St. Andrew, take a more active approach to solving our national hunger crisis. Feeding America published: Hunger Report 2010 which is, thus far, the largest study of domestic hunger with statistically valid data collected through thousands of interviews and even more surveys. Feeding America provides food to 37 million Americans; one in every eight Americans relies on Feeding America's programs for food or groceries. Surprisingly, 36% of households in the program have at least one person working. Also one third of surveyed families admit to having to choose between quality food and other expenses including, but not limited to: electricity, rent and medical care.
But a few organization doing millions of dollars worth of work is not enough. And that is where government projects come into play. Projects like FNS's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Food Distribution Program are currently in place to assist citizens in meeting their dietary needs. But the government programs were never designed to rescue families from the grips of hunger, only to temporarily alleviate the symptoms.
These programs were first thought of by Henry Wallace, the Secretary of Agriculture, in the late 30s and early 40s when the grip of the Great Depression was finally loosening. The program initially had people buy discounted stamps to purchase surplus food at the expense of the government, ultimately the tax payers. Thus allowing families to allocate less of their budget and get the same quality of food. The program ended in 1943, "since the conditions that brought the program into being--unmarketable food surpluses and widespread unemployment--no longer existed."
In 1964 President Johnson requested legislation passed that would make the FSP a permanent institution. H.R. 10222, introduced by Congresswoman Leonor Sullivan with the following main points:
Find out for yourself at: