You and I Call It Hunger; USDA Calls It Food Insecurity

Washington DC November 16, 2009: A USDA report released today found the highest rate of food insecurity since the report was initiated 13 years ago. Almost one in six American households, or 17 million households, are food insecure. You and I would call that hungry.

That's a 30 percent increase in just one year. Put another way, 4 million more households went hungry in 2008, or the equivalent of every man, woman and child living in New York City.

Hunger is seen as the direct result of poverty. But not everyone in a household is unemployed. Often there was at least one full- or part-time worker.

One USDA staffer said, "well it's not necessarily chronic hunger," or year-round hunger. But he then went on to say that it could be hunger you experience seven out of 12 months of the year.

That's a staggering indictment of the richest country in the world.

Well-established USDA child nutrition programs and WIC help feed families. Thirty-one million children receive a healthy meal each school day -- for some children in need, this is their most important meal that day. And fortunately while we wait for the Child Nutrition Act to be renewed next year, an additional $1 billion was added to the school lunch budget. WIC received additional support as well.

According to USDA Secratary Vilsack, if you look beyond our shores, "a billion people are food insecure worldwide. This despite the best efforts of developed nations." Makes you want throw up your hands.

But don't. Reach for your keyboard and wallet instead. Here are three easy things you can do:

Make a Difference
  1. Support small local farmers by buying a share in a CSA. A CSA is an upfront payment to receive food all season long from local farmers. Your average cost per pound will be less than farmers markets and big box stores. And the money goes directly to farmers rather than middlemen. If you know a family in need, buy a CSA share for them as a direct gift.
  2. Donate to Feeding America. Feeding America is a network of 200 food banks in 50 states that distributes more than 2 billion pounds of donated groceries annually to 63,000 local charitable agencies.
  3. Volunteer at a local food bank or pantry.

For more information on food and farming, visit Friend of the Farmer.

For more on the USDA report.