By the numbers – hunger in the US has declined

In September of this year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), released their annual report Household Food Security in the United States.  A compilation of 39,948 household surveys conducted by the US Census Bureau and compiled by the Economic Research Department of the USDA, the report is used by policy makers across the country to help predict the level of support needed to keep low income Americans out of hunger. Per the report:

  • More than 42.2 million Americans lived in households that struggled against hunger in 2015. The 2015 numbers were a significant improvement from 2014, with the rate declining from 15.4 percent of individuals to 13.4 percent.

The good news is that hunger, by this report, is declining.  The bad news is that many Americans aren’t feeling full and the country’s level of food insecurity stubbornly remains well above the pre-recession numbers of 2007.  While we are now past the severe national financial crisis of 2008-2009, many individuals find themselves either still looking for work or working for much less money or working part-time jobs (and sometimes even multiple part time jobs) to try to make ends meet.  Much of the part time work available is hourly and does not come with benefits, while many who remained working  have not seen a pay raise in years.  The ever increasing working poor in the US struggles to buy staples, including the very basics, like food.

In September, Time magazine published an article titled “A Turning Point for Hunger in America.” More of a brief history of the struggle to end hunger in America rather than insights into the USDA report it does suggest that we have turned the tide in the battle for food security.  At MAV, we work daily with those on the front lines of hunger.  We have been in the food banks, we have volunteered at pantries and we have handed out food to those in need who patiently stood in line on a hot summer day.  If that line is getting shorter, and we certainly hope it is, we have not seen it.

Food banks and pantries continue to run at full tilt to meet a need that does not seem to be declining. What was designed to be a temporary program for emergency food, has morphed into a distribution center for what is now a chronic hunger problem.  A spokesman for Feeding America, the largest anti-hunger organization in the US, said they and their network of 200 food banks across the country distributed $7 Billion dollars worth of food in 2015.

In Connecticut where MAV is based, a spokesman for the Connecticut Food Bank Called 2016 “A slightly less awful year than 2015” but qualified it with “but remember, before the crisis of 2008 CT was ranked 8th in the nation for food security…we are now 23rd.”

This week, CNBC posted a great overview of hunger in America, which we have featured here.  The facts reported about the working poor and hungry are in direct contrast to reports of record highs being made by the stock market.  There is a recovery going on in America, but for many it has become a case of “first out, last back in.”

“While families across the country gather around the dinner table during this holiday season, there is a different, far less cheery scenario playing out for millions of other Americans. They’re the ones who go hungry, and for whom food — and enough of it — is a daily struggle. According to Feeding America, more than 42 million people now suffer from hunger throughout the nation.”

Read the entire CNBC article here.