Monday, November 16, 2009

Hungry Americans: Debunking The Hype

In a nation where rampant obesity has been linked with poverty, how can we explain headlines and exclamations such as these?
These headlines are the result of profound laziness and ineptitude. The news organizations and journalists who parrot this sort of mindless nonsense should be ashamed of themselves.

Some unsolicited advice: Dig a little deeper, you stupid drones!

Want the whole story? Never fear, RightKlik will go boldly where reporters fail to tread. First some definitions and clarification:

Marginal food security: Anxiety over food sufficiency or shortage of food in the house. Little or no indication of changes in diets or food intake (people who worry going hungry).

Low food security: Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.

Very low food security: Indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.

Hunger: A craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient.

Starvation: Suffering from extreme hunger.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report which provided an update on the state of "food security" in America. The results were based on a nationwide survey which included questions such as these:

1. “We worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more.” Was that often, sometimes, or never true for you in the last 12 months?

2. “The food that we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have money to get more.” Was that often, sometimes, or never true for you in the last 12 months?

3. “We couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals.” Was that often, sometimes, or never true for you in the last 12 months?

4. In the last 12 months, did you or other adults in the household ever cut the size of your mealsor skip meals because there wasn’t enough money for food?

5. (If yes to question 4) How often did this happen—almost every month, some months but not every month, or in only 1 or 2 months?

6. In the last 12 months, did you ever eat less than you felt you should because there wasn’t enough money for food?

7. In the last 12 months, were you ever hungry, but didn’t eat, because there wasn’t enough money for food?

8. In the last 12 months, did you lose weight because there wasn’t enough money for food?

9. In the last 12 months did you or other adults in your household ever not eat for a whole day because there wasn’t enough money for food?

10. (If yes to question 9) How often did this happen—almost every month, some months but not every month, or in only 1 or 2 months?

[emphasis added]

Some follow-up questions could have provided some much needed perspective:

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, answer the questions below. During the times in which you had difficulty with your food budget...

11. Did you spend money on cigarettes or other tobacco products?

12. Did you spend money on alcoholic beverages?

13. Did you spend money on crack, marijuana or methamphetamines?

14. Did you spend money on lotto tickets?

15. Did you spend money on cable TV?

16. Did you spend money on mobile phone(s)?

17. Did you spend money on professional sex workers?

18. Was any member of your household morbidly obese?

If you answered yes to question 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18, please reorganize your priorities.

But it wouldn't be very PC to put questions of hunger within the context of personal responsibility, would it? Fine...we'll set aside questions of responsibility and take the data at face value. What did the U.S.D.A. report tell us? The Washington Post provides the following graphic:

Note that families who endure little or no reduction of food intake ("Low" food security) have been lumped together with families who contend with disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake ("Very Low" food security).

When households coping with reduced food intake are examined separately, a different picture emerges:

In 2008, 5.7% of U.S. households (about one in eighteen) had trouble maintaining abundant food supplies (up from 4.1% of U.S. households in 2007)

A fair assessment of the issue of hunger in America will take these important caveats into account:

"Even when resources are inadequate to provide food for the entire family, children are usually shielded from the disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake that characterize very low food security. However, children as well as adults experienced instances of very low food security in 506,000 households (1.3 percent of households with children) in 2008, up from 323,000 households (0.8 percent of households with children) in 2007."

"On a given day, the number of households with very low food security was a small fraction of the number that experienced this condition “at some time during the year.” Typically, households classifi ed as having very low food security experienced the condition in 7 or 8 months of the year, for a few days in each of those months. On an average day in late November or early December, 2008, for example, an estimated 1.1 million to 1.4 million households (0.9-1.2 percent of all U.S. households) had members who experienced very low food security, and children experienced these conditions in 86,000 to 111,000 households (0.22 to 0.28 percent of all U.S. households with children)."


Yes, that's a grave and insidious problem, but the facts lay waste to The Washington Post's claim that one child in four struggled last year to get enough to eat. In reality, at any given point in time in 2008, one in FOUR HUNDRED households with children experienced conditions in which someone might have missed meals.

While some nations still struggle with the the threat of rampant starvation, people no longer worry about starving to death in the developed world. In the U.S. we worry about worrying about going hungry. Sorry to be insensitive, but that is not a real problem.

Exit question: Were illegal immigrants counted?


Washington Post: America's economic pain brings hunger pangs

Fox News: Number of Americans Going Hungry Increases

Limbaugh: Obama's America: More Go Hungry (But It's Okay)

America's weight problem


DaBlade said...

Them poor hungry children at McDonalds. Awesome! The only ultra-skinny people in this country are crack hos, GAP models, and the POTUS.

conservative generation said...

Wow Klik...Great job! I was reading similar articles last night and had the same skeptical conclusion, but you really had the facts.

Interesting story about poverty, because I used to be poor myself. I had a friend who once had a choice between diapers for his 8 month old and cigarettes. What do you think he chose.

There is a reason this person is still poor and I am not.

Anonymous said...

Very good post. And I agree with much of what you are saying. I also dislike statistics that say "N% of people are living in poverty", N usually being an unfeasibly large number. When poverty is measured relative to median earnings it becomes a nonsense term and insults the billions around the world living in abject poverty (not simply lacking a plasma TV).

I was amazed, when living in Oregon, that the school regularly organised a "food drive" for the local food bank. This was prior to the present economic crisis and I still wonder how, in the richest nation on earth, such a thing was required. I have little doubt though, that many on low incomes do prioritise cigarettes, alcohol and drugs over their real needs.

Anonymous said...

I think it was Dinesh D'Souza who said something like, "I want to go to America, where the poor people are fat."

Thanks for debunking the scare tactics. Some people are truly needy, but much of this is just propoganda to give the gov't more control.

conservative generation said...

linking to your excellent handiwork :)

Proof said...

That one kid at McDonald's looked like the Michelin Tire Man! Sheesh!

RightKlik said...

DaBlade: Common link: All three groups are cocaine users!

CG: Thanks. Yes in the this country, poverty is a choice 99% of the time.

CL: Thank you. It's really insane how we define poverty now.

4s: Certainly sounds like D'Souza. I agree. This will be used as an excuse to create unnecessary government initiatives. This kind of propaganda is gold for community organizers.

CG: Thanks.

Proof: True!

The Malcontent said...

LOL, that burger looked pretty good to me!

cube said...

You are doing the job that investigative journalists in the state run media refuse to do. Good work!

Anonymous said...

I really shouldn't be surprised that the comment list is just a bunch of people demonizing the poor.

Oh, but now I'm remembering when Jesus said, "Damn the poor. Damn them to hell." Sorry about that.

And Jesus was a productive guy. Took over all four railroads and got Broadway. When people set up a market in the temple, he went in and meticulously showed everyone how to turn a profit.

RightKlik said...

Malcontent: supermassive

Cube: Thanks

Anonymous: Thanks for reminding us of those Bible stories. I'm reminded of the story in which Jesus instructed his disciples to use the power of government to redistribute wealth, thereby making political leaders more powerful.

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