EDITORIAL: American hunger

By NEMS Daily Journal

The great recession has dealt a financial blow to many charities, cutting into endowment assets as well as reducing income and donations, and many have struggled nationwide.
One measure of how hard times affects Americans is in looking at hunger statistics – the kind of hunger with which food pantries and community meal programs deal, mostly private sector operations feeding millions on a regular schedule.
The organization Hunger in America (formerly America’s Second Harvest) provides valuable studies and information about hunger nationwide and helps link hunger organizations in their work.
Hunger in America 2010 is the largest study of domestic hunger, drawing information from more than 61,000 interviews with clients and surveys of 37,000 feeding agencies.
The report shows that hunger is increasing in our nation, a conclusion supported by the periodic reports of food agencies in Mississippi.
Food banks report feeding 1 million more Americans each weekly than in 2009, and that includes the 36 percent of client households where at least one person has a job.
More than one-third of client households report having to choose between food and other necessities like rent, clothing and medical care.
The number of children in feeding programs increased by 50 percent since 2006, the report shows.
Most of our nation’s 300 million people of course aren’t hungry or malnourished. Hunger is mostly seen as a problem in some far-off place ravaged by war, famine, drought and disease – all resting on ubiquitous poverty or political oppression.
Hunger, however, is virtually around everybody’s corner even in the U.S., including Mississippi.
The Washington Times reported that more than one in seven American households struggled to put enough food on the table in 2008, the highest rate since the Agriculture Department began tracking “food security” levels in 1995.
That’s about 49 million people – 14.6 percent of U.S. households. The numbers are a significant increase from 2007, when 11.1 percent of U.S. households suffered from “food insecurity” – not having enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle.
Researchers not surprisingly blame the increase in hunger on a lack of money and other resources.
The report also showed an increasing number of children in the U.S. are regularly hungry. In 2008, 16.7 million children were classified as not having enough food, 4.3 million more than in 2007. The number was expected to rise for 2009, too.
Our culture broadly shares concerns about hunger and malnutrition, and in light of the facts the need for response is clear.