We’re going to be talking a lot this week about hunger, so I started my homework-preparations the usual way, by searching the New York Times.
Usually, going back 7 days is more than sufficient, but over the past week, the word hunger has appeared in the Times only in single stories about hunger strikers in Kuwait and about Venezuela and Yemen in which hunger was a minor element. There were 2 Times stories this week about food issues in America, one on anorexia, the other on hunger among college and university students, which actually raised issues we’ll talk about today.
Expanding my search to 30 days, I found a story about hunger strikers in a Texas prison and single stories that were genuinely focused on hunger — in North Korea and Venezuela.
But over those 30 days, by the latest government and academic estimates, as many as 41 million Americans, including 13 million children went hungry. There was no mention of this in the Times for the past month!
These people are officially victims of “food insecurity” 2 words someone invented to bore and distract you from their specific one-word meaning: hunger.
You qualify for “food insecurity” if you’ve been “missing meals, relying on food banks or food stamps, borrowing money for food, or neglecting bills and rent in order to buy groceries.”
Last year, 41 million Americans qualified.
These people are not going hungry because America hasn’t enough food to feed them. The US exported $133 billion in food products in 2015, the latest year for which figures are available, and that was down $11 billion for 2 years before. That would average out close to $3000 a year for every hungry man, woman and child in America.
The re-direction of just a fraction of those food supplies into the domestic rather than the global market would go a long way towards making America Healthier Again.
Of course, President Trump wants to go in the opposite direction, to have government spend less, and do less, to feed poor people, using the specter of work requirement to dis-incentivize applying for SNAP aid, food stamps.
This whole “work for your supper” dramatization is less cruel than it is completely phony. Right now, more than a third, 34.5%, of people living in “food insecurity” have jobs. Just as, in families that qualify for Medicaid, 8 out of 10 include a fully-employed member. Padding the official optimism of our ever-dropping unemployment figures are the employed people whose pay doesn’t come close to covering food and shelter. President Trump never mentions this whenever he credits himself for his one-year extension of Barack Obama’s extremely incomplete economic recovery.
Here’s a final statistic from Joel Berg of Hunger Free America…between 2002 and 2013, the combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans rose by 30 percent, while food insecurity rose by 34 percent.
In Northern California, the San Francisco Bay/Silicon Valley area, one of the richest places in the country, you can see how the rich getting richer has made the lives of the poor even poorer.
The economic boom of Silicon Valley has blown the roof off housing prices and priced thousands of families out of their homes, with few cheaper alternatives available. And, statistically and in reality, homelessness and hunger tend to stick to one another.
Charlotte Simmonds is a copy editor for Guardian US. She previously wrote and edited for publications in the UK such as the New Statesman. She is presently reporting for the Outside in America Project for The Guardian.