The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls it “food insecurity.” Most of us would call it going hungry.
Whatever the name, a new report shows that it in 2008 it happened to more Americans than ever before since the government starting keeping tabs 14 years ago.
The department reported that last year, Americans living in 6.7 million households had their “eating patterns disrupted at times during the year.” In plain English, that means missing meals and going to bed with an aching stomach.
What’s more, the figure jumped by a startling 2 million households in a single year.
And that’s just part of the story. As Jason DeParle noted in parsing the data in this morning’s The New York Times, the Department’s figures are for last year, long before unemployment in this country soared to 10.2 percent (at the end of last year, it was 3 percentage points lower).
Those people missing meals also represent just a third of the total number of Americans deprived of food varied and healthy enough to lift them out of — that word again — “food insecurity.”
In all, the Times reported, some 49 million Americans — a jump of 13 million in a year — at times “lacked consistent access to adequate food.”
That this story didn’t make the front page of either of my morning papers (The Times and The Boston Globe) says a lot to me about the growing indifference of mainstream society to the accelerating collapse of our less fortunate neighbors and fellow citizens.
Consider a few other findings that The Times reported:
- More than 500,000 American children live in households in which children are missing meals, a jump of more than 50 percent in one year.
- The number of Americans collecting food stamps has jumped 40 percent in two years.
- In households headed by single mothers, more than one in three struggled in some way to feed their children adequately.
My morning Globe did showcase a different story about poverty on its front page today, one that suggests more “food insecure” Americans also will soon find themselves living on the street.
The paper told the story of Maria Bonilla, a 27-year-old single mother of two and domestic violence victim. She can’t work because of a congenital heart defect. But she’s managed to scrape by until now on a mix of $942 in combined state and federal assistance each month. On Jan. 1, however, she’ll be losing $238 a month in state assistance and “expects to be homeless.”
“In the face of unprecedented economic challenges, the governor has had to make some very difficult budget decisions,’’ Jennifer Kritz, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, told the paper.
Apparently not difficult enough. The poor make an easy target for Draconian cuts. Hardly anyone notices.