In a nation where rampant obesity has been linked with poverty, how can we explain headlines and exclamations such as these?
- One in six Americans felt pangs of hunger in '08
- Number of Americans Going Hungry Increases
- Almost one child in four struggled last year to get enough to eat.
- This is unthinkable. It's like we are living in a Third-World country.
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?
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)."
ONE QUARTER OF ONE PERCENT!
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