A government euphemism can't hide hunger

The Capital Area Foodbank

Image by Geoff Livingston via Flickr

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.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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6 Responses to A government euphemism can't hide hunger

  1. Caitlin Kelly says:

    I wonder if we’re hitting compassion fatigue domestically. The economy is so relentlessly lousy, people are terrified of job loss, etc. How much more of these stories, no matter how true, important and compelling they are, can we stand to read? You can only hear the problems repeated so many times — without solutions — before you start to turn out in boredom or despair or hopelessness, no?

    I am a trustee for the Writers Emergency Assistance Fund and our requests for urgent, large grants are increasing sharply.

    • Jerry Lanson says:

      In a way it’s true. But this should be the time more people get involved and engaged. I’m not one to talk. I’ve made a point of increasing my charitable giving by about a third this year, but need to volunteer regularly. It’s something we’re talking about but haven’t started. The thing that burns me is that in this state, every road construction project has a cop standing by directing traffic whether needed or not. Im not sure whether the cops are paid with local OT or in some other way, the reason I didn’t put it in the blog post, but I do know it is mandated by law. That’s the kind of spending that could be cut without leaving people without food or shelter.

  2. shawngilbreath says:

    I agree that people can only take so much before burning out, but I also think we can all agree that there is no way our country should be in this situation in the first place. The fact that people, especially children, go to bed hungry in this country is a sad commentary on our priorities. Meaning that the money is there to take care of this, but selfishness and old fashioned greed will ensure that no one will sacrifice for the greater good. Hell, we’ve made that an un-American idea now, haven’t we?

  3. rufusjunior says:

    I’m in Ohio. Every place I go, I see nothing but unused land that could grow vegetables; and I see the state collecting grass clippings and leaves that could turn that land into a vegetable factory.

    I’ll quit what I am doing today and go any place you want me to go to teach people how to use that land Jerry. Want my phone number? If you’re serious I am. I can take six months off and do it for free. And I am awesome at organic gardening.

  4. Pingback: Let’s put terrorist attempts in perspective - Jerry Lanson - News Prints - True/Slant

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