Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nearly One in Five Americans Report Inability to Afford Enough Food

From the report:

Washington, D.C. – March 3, 2011 – Nearly one in five Americans struggled to afford enough food for themselves and their families in 2010, according to a new report released today by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). The report also reveals the extent of this struggle through 2010 in every congressional district and 100 of the country’s largest metropolitan areas (MSA), providing a unique up-to-date examination of how millions of American households in every part of the country continue to face a struggle with hunger.

The report analyzes data that were collected by Gallup and provided to FRAC. The data were gathered as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project, which has been interviewing almost 1,000 households daily since January 2008. FRAC has analyzed responses to the question: “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”

Gallup’s data reveal pervasive food hardship at every level:

* The annual rate of food hardship in 2010 was 18 percent, down slightly from the 2009 level of 18.3 percent. The rate peaked in 2008, increasing from 16.3 percent in the first quarter of 2008 to 19.5 percent in the fourth quarter.
* In the last few months of 2010, some of the highest rates in the three year period were reached—the October 2010 rate of 19.3 percent had been exceeded only in November-December 2008.
* The variations in food hardship by region in 2010 were substantial. In the starkest difference, the rate in the Southeast (21.1 percent) and Southwest (20.8 percent) is one-third higher than in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
* In 21 states in 2010, one in five or more respondents answered the food hardship question in the affirmative; in 45 states, 15 percent or more answered the question “yes.” The states with the highest rates of food hardship were overwhelmingly from the Southeast, Southwest and West.
* Eighty-five of the 100 largest MSAs had 15 percent or more of households affirmatively answering this question. In only three MSAs was it below 12.5 percent (one in eight respondents). Most of the MSAs with the highest rates of food insecurity were in the Southeast and Southwest, and in California.
* In 177 of the 436 congressional districts (including the District of Columbia), one-fifth or more of all respondent households reported food hardship in the 2009-2010 period. 324 districts had a rate 15 percent or higher. Only 17 had fewer than one in ten respondents reporting food hardship.

“The data in this report show that food hardship – running out of money to buy the food that families need – is a substantial challenge in every corner of this country,” said Jim Weill, FRAC President. “While the nation’s Great Recession may have technically ended in mid-2009, it has not yet ended for many of the nation’s households. For them, 2010 was the third year of a terrible recession that is widely damaging the ability to meet basic needs.”

In its report FRAC noted that in 2010 the government’s “U-6” index – which reflects a combination of traditional unemployment, involuntary part-time workers, and discouraged workers – was generally comparable to that in 2009 and much higher than in 2008. In late 2010 the rate was higher than earlier in the year – hovering around 17 percent. This helps explain why food hardship rates are so high and are receding so slowly.

“There still are unprecedented numbers of Americans who are struggling with no wages or low wages, and we can see the impact of that struggle in the food hardship data,” said Weill. “We have to strengthen programs that benefit those who are trying to make ends meet. We have the resources, even in these difficult times, to eliminate hunger in this country. The consequences of not doing this are far too severe, and the moral cost is even greater. We can’t afford to leave people behind, especially when we can see that so many are struggling.”

And here is the latest data on Food Stamp participation and total usage:

Couple the above data with the latest news that global food prices set another record:

Global food prices set another record last month. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said today that its food price index averaged 236 points, a 2.2 percent increase since January. That’s the highest level the index has reached, both in real or nominal terms, since the FAO started tracking global food costs in 1990.

Prices for cereals, which include corn, wheat and rice, rose 3.7 percent to the highest level since July 2008. Dairy prices were up 4 percent. Meat prices were up 2 percent.

The FAO has been expecting grain supplies to tighten further this year because of growing demand and the global decline in production last year.

“Unexpected oil price spikes could further exacerbate an already precarious situation in food markets,” said David Hallam, director of the FAO’s trade and market division.

The impact of the increased commodity prices varies from country to country, depending on how reliant countries are on exports and what measures governments take to control food costs, economists say. In many poor countries, people can spend up to 70 percent of their income on food.

The great global squeeze continues. Thank God we have wonderful and astute men like Bernanke in charge of monetary policy in order to ensure prices remain "stable."

Or not.


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  3. This is interesting considering that if you go to any poor neighborhood most people are overweight. Where are the thin and emaciated hungry people?

  4. @ anon 3:03am

    One reason why poor people are overweight is the quality of the food available to them. Crappy processed foods tend to be cheaper than quality fresh foods, they don't spoil as quickly, and may not need to be refrigerated or even cooked (keeps your electric bill low).

    A major problem is the "food desert", some poor neighbourhoods don't have a decent grocery store, no public transport to get you to one, and if you don't have a car you're screwed. Some people get all their calories from convenience stores and gas station snack bars. That kind of horrific nutrition can easily lead to obesity.

  5. 3:03 - Farm Bill.

    In another of its corrupt crazymaking ways, your fed govt. subsidies agribusiness to produce vast amounts of corn and other junk grains (and they are junk, even before the processing).

    These then get jumped all over more times than a cap of street crack, and turned out by processed food manufacturers as noxious, pancreas-crushing empty carbs at ridiculously low prices.

    All this HFCS laden garbage can then go onto store shelves at way below what whole foods cost. So you can get a meal in a box for the equivalent of, say, a head of broccoli. Yum, slow-release suicide!

    The result: big profit margins for big food, big donations for the big parties, and tidal waves of insulin for the poor.

  6. @12:06 pm

    Spot on. High fructose corn syrup kills. Sometimes I pull over in the hood to get some gas and there is literally NOTHING to eat other then the "science" these agri bastards have produced. If these people only knew what the hell they were putting in their bodies.

    Hence why I NEVER eat corporate fast food.

  7. It's possible that they do know HFCS and other processed foods are rubbish, but they don't have other options. No grocery store, no bus or car to get to one, no money to buy good fresh food anyway. And maybe junk food is one of the few pleasures they can afford. Orwell wrote about this in "The Road to Wigan Pier".

  8. Somewhat related: Tonight 60 Minutes had a segment on a community in Florida with so many families living in motel rooms that the school bus routes were changed to pick the kids up there. Stuff like this is happening across the country. Most of these kids know all too well what it is go hungry. It's practically a humanitarian disaster.

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