If You Are Not Hungry, Then No One in America Should Be Hungry

New research shows that Americans overwhelmingly are aware of and vastly underestimate the scope of hunger in the United States.

witnesses to hunger

Victory in the War on Hunger is something the United States has won before. (Photo: Witnesses to Hunger/Shelly G.)

Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

Here’s something not to bring up while mooching free grub as a dinner guest.

In the United States—right now—50 million people are unsure where their next meal is coming from. That doesn’t mean these 50 million people haven’t made up their minds if they will eat at home or go out to a restaurant. It doesn’t mean these 50 million will make a mealtime decision between having Chinese or Italian delivered.

It means that the United States today is home to enough people to populate a large Third World country who are unsure if they will eat any food during their next scheduled meal.

That empty-hand to hungry-mouth condition is being called food insecurity—a term that seven in ten Americans, research shows, are unfamiliar with.

If you are not experiencing food insecurity right now, that is largely a matter of luck. There is no need to congratulate yourself on your nutritional superiority, or to take your food security for granted, as the United States once did.

There was a time, in the late 1960s, when Republican President Richard Nixon worked in a cooperative manner with a Democratic congress and effectively eliminated food insecurity in the United States.

If you are not experiencing food insecurity right now, that is largely a matter of luck. There is no need to congratulate yourself on your nutritional superiority, or to take your food security for granted, as the United States once did.

Ask around, however, and it becomes clear that food insecurity has made a roaring comeback. It is particularly roaring among children, old people, single mothers with jobs and, in short, people who were not sufficiently fortunate to be born on the plus side of the poverty threshold.

Hungry kids, malnourished elders and food-insecure low-income mothers are just three selections from the full menu of assumptions about food insecurity in the United States.

Many of the common assumptions about American hunger are true, as verified by an investigation conducted by the Penn Schoen Berland research firm as part of a social action campaign for Participant Media’s new documentary film A Place at the Table.

The study, “Food Insecurity in America: U.S. Public Opinion About Solving Hunger and Obesity,” conducted through online polling and telephone interviews, also uncovered American hunger realities that defy the expectations of commonly accepted wisdom.

For instance, although the realization may be shocking, no clear-thinking citizen should be surprised to learn that:

  • Women and minorities are most impacted by food insecurity, and are most interested in taking action to solve it.
  • Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that food insecurity is a problem in the United States.
  • Americans who have not experienced food insecurity are less likely to say hunger is a very pressing issue and are more likely to feel that it is being given enough attention.
  • Americans who have experienced food insecurity are more likely to say hunger is a very pressing issue that it needs more attention.

And here are some telling surprises:

  • Sixty-one percent of Americans have at some point received assistance from the government or from a food bank, soup kitchen, etc. to help feed themselves or their families.
  • But hardly one-third of Americans think hunger is a very pressing issue.
  • On average, Americans think that only 19 million of their fellows are food insecure, an underestimation of 31 million.
  • Hardly one-quarter of Americans think the hunger problem should be given more attention.
  • Although 73 percent think the U.S. government should do more to solve the problem.
  • And a full three out of four believe food insecurity in America is a problem that will probably never be solved.
  • However, minority respondents—more likely to have experienced food insecurity—are also more likely to believe the problem of food insecurity in America will be solved.

That 50 million people living within the borders of the United States of America know what it means to fear hunger every day, and cannot escape that knowledge, is the second most astounding and unfathomable finding of all the research done so far on food insecurity.

Here’s the number one astounding and unfathomable finding: We haven’t summoned the will to feed the people who live here.

How far are you willing to go to help solve America’s hunger problem? Trace the steps you’ll take in COMMENTS.

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