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It’s shameful that millions go hungry in the land of plenty

Created: 20 November, 2009
Updated: 13 September, 2023
3 min read

 We need to wipe out hunger in America. It’s a sin that it not only exists but is actually increasing in the richest nation on Earth.

 Tens of millions of Americans are unable to feed their families. Because of widespread poverty, they simply cannot afford adequate nutrition. With the current recession and crippling joblessness, this is a crisis that requires our immediate attention.

 Last year, more than 49 million people lived in households that lacked consistent access to adequate nutrition, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), “Household Food Security in the United States, 2008.”

 The numbers break down this way: 32.4 million adults and 16.7 million children (almost one child out of every four) were “food insecure,” meaning that due to a lack of resources, they have difficulty providing enough food, the report said. The sobering statistic of 49 million Americans with inadequate nutrition is 13 million more than the previous year, and the highest since the government started recording such numbers in 1995.

 Of these struggling Americans, 12.1 million adults and 5.2 million children lived in households with very low food security, meaning that one or more family members had to skip meals and disrupt their eating patterns because they could not afford to buy food.

 The Department of Agriculture study comes on the heels of a shocking report that about half of children in the United States are on food stamps at some point in their childhood. The report, “Estimating the Risk of Food Stamp Use and Impoverishment During Childhood,” was published in the November edition of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

 Using 29 years of data, the report concludes that one in three white children and a staggering 90 percent of black children will qualify for food stamps.

 “American children are at a high risk of encountering a spell during which their families are in poverty and food insecure as indicated through their use of food stamps,” according to the authors, Mark R. Rank and Thomas A. Hirschl. “Such events have the potential to seriously jeopardize a child’s overall health.”

 Rank and Hirschl point out that poverty and food insecurity are two of the most detrimental economic conditions that can affect children’s health.

 “Children in poverty are significantly more likely to experience a range of health problems, including low birth weight, lead poisoning, asthma, mental health disorders, delayed immunization, dental problems and accidental death,” they write.

 These statistics are more in line with a developing nation, not an economic superpower such as the United States. And it is hard to imagine America remaining a prosperous country — or a major competitor on the world stage, for that matter — while a substantial portion of its people suffer from empty stomachs.

 We need swift and bold action from the White House and the Congress. No child in America, no adult in America, should go hungry.