You wouldn’t know it from either of the political conventions, where poor and unemployed people were largely disappeared from the speeches and images. But the number of people suffering from food insecurity has grown during the course of the Second Great Depression.
According to the food insecurity numbers revealed in a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture [pdf, ht: db], last year approximately 50 million Americans struggled with hunger. More than 16 million of these Americans, or more than one out of five, were kids. This is a true humanitarian crisis, which is not going away.
Here are some of the major findings:
- For American families, hunger is a chronic problem. Almost 15 percent were food insecure at least some time during 2011, an enormous increase from 11.8 percent in 1998 and 11.1 percent in 2007.
- Even more, one third (6.8 million) of all food-insecure households had very low food security. In these households, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at various times during the year because they could not afford enough food..
- Childhood hunger remains a serious problem. The 2011 numbers are part of a record-high, four-year trend for the 17 years in which the federal government has tracked food insecurity. Households with children (20.6 percent) are more likely than households without children (9.9 percent) to struggle with hunger, and households with young children under the age of 6 struggle the most (21.9 percent).
- In 2011, the median U.S. household spent $47.50 per person each week for food. Households at or below the poverty line spent $35 per person.
- About 57 percent of food-insecure households reported receiving assistance from one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs (SNAP, free or reduced-price school lunches, and WIC) during the month prior to the December 2011 food security survey.
You wouldn’t know it from the politicians of either major political party but these are the United States of food insecurity.