Hunger in America!

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  • #1
Astronuc
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I could put this in a number of threads concerning the US economy/employment or capitalism, but it's worth its own thread.

Some 38 million people in America are considered "food insecure" -- they have trouble finding the money to keep food on the table. NPR profiles families who have faced hunger in three different settings: rural, suburban and urban America.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5023829

Hunger By the Numbers

The federal government classifies a family as "food insecure" if at some point during the year the household had difficulty buying enough food. A look at the numbers on food insecurity:

U.S. population considered "food insecure": 38.2 million (1)

Proportion of metropolitan U.S. population considered "food insecure": 12.9 percent (1)

U.S. households classified as "food insecure" and headed solely by women: 11 million (1)

Proportion of U.S. households defined as "food insecure" with income at or below the federal poverty threshold: 40 percent (1)

Proportion of U.S. "food insecure" households reporting they "couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals": 11.6 percent (1)

Percentage of U.S. adults defined as "food insecure" reporting skipping meals or cutting meal sizes: 6.6 percent (1)

Proportion of all U.S. households with children reporting children often or sometimes don’t get enough food: 4.6 percent (1)

Proportion of households surveyed at America's Second Harvest emergency food services reporting children going hungry due to lack of money: 15 percent (2)

Number of Americans defined as "the working poor" (at least 6 months in the labor force with incomes below the federal poverty threshold): 7.4 million (3)

Sources:

1) Household Food Security in the United States, 2004, Economic Research Service, USDA
2) Hunger in America 2001, America's Second Harvest, survey of 32,000 clients
3) A Profile of the Working Poor, 2003, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
38 million is roughly 13% of the total population. Clearly, the US economy is not working well for everyone.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
ranger
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38 million, I had no idea. Thats a really big number.
 
  • #3
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Is it mostly frictional unemployment, or cyclical unemployment?
 
  • #4
Astronuc
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Well, at about 5% unemployment, that would be about 7.5 million people unemployed. Some of the 38 million would include dependents of those 7.5 million who are unemployed, but it also includes many who are working, but still cannot afford all the necessities - e.g. food, housing, clothing, utilities (heating, electricity, telephone, . . .), medicine.

Chronically unemployed are not counted as unemployed. After a certain period, these people are considered discouraged workers, and are simply not counted as unemployed, but are considered 'out of the workforce'.

Of the US population, there are about 140 million people who are not considered part of the workforce. In addition to chronically unemployed, this would also include full time students, children who are not eligible to work, people on disability or too ill to work, and those who are in the penal system.

See - http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
 
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  • #5
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I think the problem is poor families that have to many kids. I see poor families all the time with like six children. I know it's almost impossible for an adult to starve in America. I mean most hobos can make more than minimum wage just standing on the corner asking for money.
 
  • #6
Pengwuino
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The federal government classifies a family as "food insecure" if at some point during the year the household had difficulty buying enough food. A look at the numbers on food insecurity:
You know, that definition pulls in a tremendous number of people that really wouldn't be considered poor families otherwise. My friends family "at some point during the year" didn't have enough money for food but of course at christmas where did the parents and the 9 kids go? Disneyland. Are they poor? yah right....
 
  • #7
russ_watters
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I think the fact that we have a demgraphic called "food insecure" is a testament to how great the US (and the west, in general) is. Most other countries call that demographic "starved to death last year".
 
  • #8
Moonbear
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Pengwuino said:
You know, that definition pulls in a tremendous number of people that really wouldn't be considered poor families otherwise. My friends family "at some point during the year" didn't have enough money for food but of course at christmas where did the parents and the 9 kids go? Disneyland. Are they poor? yah right....
Sadly, the first thing that ran through my mind was, "I wonder how many of them had money for beer and cigarettes." It does seem likely to overestimate hunger/poverty since it is a self-report. I'd like to see some data that backed it up showing these people were actually malnourished, and how many really had too little income to provide even the basic necessities and nutritional requirements for their family, versus how many simply budgeted their funds poorly and wasted the money on non-essentials. I'd also like to see it accompanied by a list of the food items they were able to purchase...there are people who would respond to the poll that they had to cut back on food purchases when they really mean they cut back on the junk foods like candy bars and potato chips but still could afford basic food necessities like bread, milk, eggs, vegetables, and some inexpensive meats.

On the other hand, your example isn't necessarily a good one. The premise set up in the OP is that this is a revolving population...the term "insecure" instead of "deprived" or "hungry" or something like that indicates a degree of uncertainty, but not prolonged hunger. For example, someone loses their job in March, lives off their savings until July, still hasn't found work, or maybe has settled for something minimum wage just to bring in something, it gets tough to put food on the table off the dwindling savings or minimal income, and there's a lot of uncertainty of when they will be able to find the next job. Then, come September, they finally land a new job that pays well, and after such a rough year, they treat the family to a visit to Disney.

But, I'm not sure it's much of an indicator of the economy since it doesn't indicate how long these families were in this situation, or how frequently it happens. Afterall, I went through a period like that as a young child when my dad first started up his own business...as with anyone starting up a business, there are some very lean years with low profits and sometimes losses in the first few years until you establish a decent client base and your name gets out as reputable. It wasn't a sign of a bad economy, it was a sign of something good, that he was able to start up a new business. But, there were times when they wouldn't have been able to put food on the table if it weren't for my grandparents helping out at times.

What I actually found most interesting out of those statistics is that a group of people were surveyed at a food bank, and of those going to a food bank for assistance, only 15% of them reported having children go hungry because of lack of food. This tells me that even in lean times, when a family can't afford to buy food, there is assistance available through the generosity of others who donate food so that they aren't truly going hungry. This doesn't mean there aren't poor people who are going hungry in the US, but it means we're doing fairly well at providing a lot of assistance to get people past those rough spots.

If this sort of survey is going to used as some sort of economic indicator, then there would need to be a comparison to prior years. Are these numbers higher or lower than in the 70s, 80s or 90s?
 
  • #9
Pengwuino
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haha sorry moonbear, it was nothing like that. Complete opposite to be exact... the dad was unemployed at the time of the lil disneyland thing. Even my friend couldn't really believe they were going to disneyland with their finances...
 
  • #10
Moonbear
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Pengwuino said:
haha sorry moonbear, it was nothing like that. Complete opposite to be exact... the dad was unemployed at the time of the lil disneyland thing. Even my friend couldn't really believe they were going to disneyland with their finances...
Nonetheless, such anectdotal evidence doesn't discount the statistics entirely, and not at all if such families are not surveyed. As I mentioned above, one can think of a number of scenarios that would indicate these statistics are going to be overestimates, but it doesn't mean there aren't truly hungry people. I still would have liked to have seen some more objective measures of hunger than just reporting that they didn't have money for food at some point, because I do suspect there are at least a percentage (how much, I don't know) of those responding whose problem was poor budgeting of their money rather than that they really didn't have enough money for basic necessities for survival.
 
  • #11
russ_watters
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Moonbear said:
I'd like to see some data that backed it up showing these people were actually malnourished...
Well that's just it - those stats don't say anything at all about nourishment, just economic difficulty. The numbers of malnourished (not mis-nourished) in the US are so small I doubt it's even possible to make useful statistics except, possibly, as related to child abuse.
 
  • #12
Gokul43201
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I don't mean to put down the intent of this thread, but in my opinion, from a global (statistical) perpective, the idea of "hunger in America" is a non-issue. There's at least two countries where the number of people living in starvation (they probably get as many calories in a year as a typical food insecure American likely gets in a month) is of the order of several tens of millions.
 
  • #13
Astronuc
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Perhaps there should be a separate thread on Hunger in the World. There certainly have been programs for as long as I can remember, but for one reason or another, the world still has chronic food shortages, and millions starving. We also have chronic warfare. :rolleyes:

Anyway - interestingly - Niger Rejects U.N. Food Crisis Claims
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051125/ap_on_re_af/niger_hunger [Broken]

NIAMEY, Niger - Niger's government has rejected U.N. claims that millions of people in this desert nation may soon face renewed food shortages.

Government spokesman Ben Omar Mohamed accused the U.N. World Food Program late Thursday of trying to "discredit Niger" by releasing what he called false information on the country's precarious food situation.

On Wednesday, the U.N. World Food Program appealed for $28 million in emergency food aid for Niger. The WFP said more than 3 million people had food stocks that would last no longer than three to five months, and nearly 2 million others "face a precarious year struggling to maintain what are already borderline livelihoods."
. . . .
Poor rains and a locust invasion during last year's harvest tipped Niger, one of the world's poorest countries, past its usual chronic food shortages into a hunger crisis earlier this year.
. . . .
But
Niger's President Mamadou Tandja drew criticism from opposition leaders over the summer when he declared his people "look well-fed" despite pictures of malnourished babies emerging from the impoverished nation for weeks.
Obviously there are problems with leaders/leadership of countries of countries which face consistent food shortages.

Meanwhile the US is contributing a fair amount of aid
http://www.usaid.gov/press/releases/ [Broken]

But I wonder where this aid really goes - to foreign governments? to middle men? Besides the chronically hungry, who else benefits?
 
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  • #14
Futobingoro
I have read that the world is taking the wrong approach to solving world hunger. Many suggest that we should devote more resources to the agricultural education of Africa than we have been; in other words, "helping them help themselves." Those who believe in this strategy say it would cost less money and solve the problem in the long run. They cite instances where, due to food shortages, African communities have eaten the seed for the next growing season, continuing the vicious cycle of hunger and famine.

I do not have a strong opinion on the matter, because I have no expertise in this field, but I do think that the discussion on ending world hunger could benefit from "new" ideas such as the one above.
 
  • #15
Art
Futobingoro said:
I have read that the world is taking the wrong approach to solving world hunger. Many suggest that we should devote more resources to the agricultural education of Africa than we have been; in other words, "helping them help themselves." Those who believe in this strategy say it would cost less money and solve the problem in the long run. They cite instances where, due to food shortages, African communities have eaten the seed for the next growing season, continuing the vicious cycle of hunger and famine.
I do not have a strong opinion on the matter, because I have no expertise in this field, but I do think that the discussion on ending world hunger could benefit from "new" ideas such as the one above.
This is not a 'new' idea. The vast majority of aid for the past 20 years has been geared to helping impoverished nations to help themselves.

From time to time circumstances require that an emergency injection of actual food aid be made available to prevent an imminent disaster.

These emergencies typically stem from either natural disasters or as a result of conflict
 
  • #16
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This report on poverty in America was very interesting.
http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/bg1796.cfm [Broken]
Here's what it has to say about malnutrition
As a group, America's poor are far from being chronically undernourished. The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children and, in most cases, is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than do higher-income children and have average protein intakes that are 100 percent above recommended levels. Most poor children in America today are, in fact, super-nourished and grow up to be, on average, one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier that the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.
Although the poor are generally well nourished, some poor families do experience hunger--meaning a temporary discomfort due to food shortages. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2002, 13 percent of poor families and 2.6 percent of poor children experienced hunger at some point during the year.8 In most cases, their hunger was short term. Eighty-nine percent of the poor reported that their families had "enough" food to eat,9 while only 2 percent said they "often" did not have enough to eat.
and about "poverty" in general:
# Forty-six percent of all poor households own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as "poor" by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
# Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
# Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
# The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
# Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars.
# Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television. Over half own two or more color televisions.
# Seventy-eight percent of America's poor own a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
# Seventy-three percent of America's poor own microwave ovens; more than half have a stereo; and one-third have an automatic dishwasher.
it seems that most of the people technically living in poverty in america aren't really doing too badly for themselves.
 
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  • #17
Pengwuino
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Moonbear said:
Nonetheless, such anectdotal evidence doesn't discount the statistics entirely, and not at all if such families are not surveyed. As I mentioned above, one can think of a number of scenarios that would indicate these statistics are going to be overestimates, but it doesn't mean there aren't truly hungry people. I still would have liked to have seen some more objective measures of hunger than just reporting that they didn't have money for food at some point, because I do suspect there are at least a percentage (how much, I don't know) of those responding whose problem was poor budgeting of their money rather than that they really didn't have enough money for basic necessities for survival.
Well the main point I was trying to bring up was that with that definition, people like my friend's family would be counted yet it shows absolutely nothing about the economy or the real hunger in America. It's just a bad gauge, that's all. A somewhat better gauge would be say "For a majority of the last 12 months, did you have to cut out at least 1 meal a day (or maybe 4 or 5 a week) due to financial constraints" for example. It filters all the instances such as the one I gave.
 
  • #18
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I wonder what this rate is for other countries.
 
  • #19
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The global rate is high. 850 million people worldwide are undernourished and don't have access to food networks.
 

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