Many Americans Still Struggling to Feed Their Families

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A new report from the Department of Agriculture released today notes that many Americans continue to struggle to put food on the table. About 17.6 million households — or 14.5 percent — were food insecure last year. About 7 million — or 5.7 percent — had very low food security, meaning some members of the household had to skip meals.

This post by Dr. Mariana Chilton, the director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities in the Drexel University School of Public Health — and a recent guest on Moyers & Company — first appeared on the Drexel News Blog.


Too many Americans are still going hungry. Proven programs that help are still not helping as much as they should.

Through research conducted at Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities, we know that food insecurity can have lifelong impacts especially on young children – hunger can impact a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.  Today’s USDA data tells us that 22.7 percent of children under the age of six are living in food insecure households. Almost a quarter of young children in the U.S. could suffer these lifelong impacts.  This becomes especially noticeable upon arrival at kindergarten where children who suffer food insecurity are likely to be unprepared and may never catch up.

The food insecurity numbers released by the USDA have not changed much since 2008. While the problem has not gotten substantially worse, it is also not getting any better.  From our research with Children’s HealthWatch we know what helps to solve hunger – programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women Infants and Children (WIC).  Young children whose families received SNAP, compared to those whose families were eligible but did not receive SNAP, were less likely to be in fair or poor health, under weight, at risk developmental delays, or to be hospitalized. In addition, children under the age of three who receive WIC are more likely to be in good health as compared to children not receiving WIC.

Despite the positive effect programs like WIC and SNAP have, benefits received by the families are often not enough to ensure they can be food secure.  Families receiving SNAP are scheduled to lose some of these essential benefits as the benefit increase that was part of the 2009 stimulus is scheduled to expire on November 1.  As more than 14 percent of households currently suffer from food insecurity, these cuts will only cause more chaos and suffering.

While funding for such critical nutrition programs continues to be debated, the data from the USDA and our research show that these programs can help to solve hunger in America – if they are accessible and adequate for those who need them.  America can and must do better for the health and wellbeing of its children and families.

Watch an interview with Dr. Chilton on Moyers & Company:

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  • Heather

    It’s time for real sustainability.

  • Jay

    So, in the end , how do we peasants change things?

  • DavidW

    We buy them out or out compete them. Ok. Fantasy scenario. An option for us is to become advocates of Cooperative Enterprise, where we pool our money and start business enterprises to meet our economic, cultural, social, and possibly political needs. Think Food Co-ops, Credit Unions, Mutual Insurance companies – all these entities are controlled by the people who need them and buy in.

    Instead of far flung shareholders looking to prioritize value and profits, the owners are local people in our communities who have decided that we need these enterprises more than we need outsized returns on our investment.

    Imagine a cooperatively owned newspaper that can hire decent investigative reporters who’s goal is not ad revenue but service to the 10,000 owner/subscribers. Or a chain of groceries that can eschew Genetically Engineered food because the consumer/owners demand that.

    This could be the way to:
    1. take market share from current corporate overlords
    2. shrink their influence with their smaller market share
    3. get them to emulate our end of the market to regain their share
    4. inspire communities across the country to emulate and try this

    You must know of some current cooperative entities in your town, find them, support them, build them grow them. Reduce our dependence upon the greedy elites.

    OK, this won’t happen but we can’t just stand by and protest by chaining ourselves to some desk at a corporate HQ and call that “direct action.” I think we would all rather just outcompete them in the marketplace and use capital the way it should be used, to benefit communities rather than to profit from them.

  • Petar Posavec

    This is absurd. The world is producing enough to feed 12 billion Humans every year and still, people are forced to pay for it. Inhumane and disgusting.

  • Person

    We always believed.

    They told us to, and we did.

    They ripped apart our family.

    They told us to believe, and we did.

    They made monsters of us,

    But we dealt. We
    believed.

    They made monsters of our children,

    But we dealt. We
    still believed.

    They took our future,

    And we stopped believing.

    They took our children,

    And we stopped caring.

    They took our lives,

    And we stopped.

  • EMW

    It can happen! We just have to work for it. I shop at a food co-op, local small businesses, Good Will and put my $ in a local credit union. We need to learn to live a simpler life and not buy into the consumption culture in the US.

  • blubegonia

    hmmm. . .on a “lighter” (pun intended) note, it may fix our obesity problem – people will be more skinny?! ;)

  • blubegonia

    we also waste so much food – trust me, i’ve had my share of working in food service; it’s disgusting to see all the food wasted (all in fear of people suing each other for lack of health environment) – constant hypocrisy in america!

  • Richard

    Children are eligible for free breakfasts and lunches at school. Why does Rosie not take advantage of this?

  • Rowan Rain

    ^Clueless.
    People who are less secure in their food finances are more likely to purchase heavily processed, carb loaded “food”–you know, the ones with specials and coupons–than healthier options, ultimately resulting in an increase in obesity.

  • DavidW

    There is already BALLE, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. Find YES Magazine online, that has pieces on their work. Are you aware of Judy Wicks? A Philadelphia Restauranteur who has worked on local sourcing, living wages etc for the last couple of decades. She’s had a hand in getting BALLE up and running.

    Food Co-ops btw are happening everywhere in little corners of the US. Also know that Cooperative Enterprise is not 501(c)3 Charity, it works within the competitive capital marketplace and have done fine without the access to most of the capital available to the 1%.

  • DavidW

    Look up BALLE – Business Alliance for Local, Living Economies.

    Ownership is where the power and control is and Cooperative Enterprise gives us little people the opportunity to own and control as a whole community a bit of that.

    Imagine if some of the corner stores in a poor neighborhood were owned by neighbors instead of sole proprietorships. When a family business has to sell, or gets an offer, they take it and management changes to who knows what the neighbors get. This is what we would normally deride as selling out.

    Imagine if 500 neighbors own the corner store and they get an offer to buy. To buy the place where you buy your chips and soda and sometimes vegetable and milk and fruit and you all employ a couple of staff, your BoD hired and like. Are you going to be able to get let’s say 101 Owners to vote sell. If 102 vote not to sell, will this store grow or get sold to the next buyer. Think of the stability this business model can offer to a community.

    We need to own media properties as people and not as 501(c)3 charities. Big donors get to control those.

  • Anonymous

    Most elderly only qualify for $5.00 to $27.00 in SNAP per month….no one mentions that. These articles always assume that the person/family gets the full benefit….