More than 38 million Americans are 'food insecure'

As the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have reawakened the American conscience of hunger and poverty, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a study Oct. 28 showing that 38.2 million Americans — including 13.8 million children — are food insecure. With an increase of more than 2 million people reported food insecure in 2004 compared to 2003, the House Agriculture Committee today approved an $840 million reduction in the Food Stamp Program in an effort to reduce the federal deficit.

“What seems like a small reduction, in fact is tragic for growing number of children and families in America who are already struggling,” said Robert Forney, president and CEO of America's Second Harvest. “Hungry and poor Americans are not responsible for creating the federal deficit, and they should not be expected to pay for it.”

The number of Americans experiencing food insecurity has been on the rise for five straight years with an 11.9 percent increase in 2004 compared to 2003. Rates of hunger and food insecurity increased in nearly all areas of the nation, and single female-headed households with children continued to have substantially higher rates of food insecurity than all other household types. Furthermore, the study shows the number of people living in food insecure households with hunger rose from 3.5 percent in 2003 to 3.9 percent in 2004 — accounting for 4.4 million households, including 274,000 households with children.

The Committee did approve an increase in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) commodity purchases for food banks in the Gulf Coast states and included a provision that will relieve the state burdens of administering disaster food stamps for the victims of the hurricanes.

“We are most grateful that the Committee has recognized the need to help our food banks in the disaster-affected areas and throughout the nation with additional commodities,” said Forney. “Replenishing badly dwindling food bank inventories nationwide will enable the America’s Second Harvest Network to bring hope to tens of thousands of hungry Americans this holiday season. However, TEFAP commodities can not begin to fill in the gaping hole left by food stamp cuts, particularly in a time when the United States is experiencing significant increases in hunger and food insecurity.”

Food insecure households are those that are not able to access enough food to meet basic nutritional requirements. Hungry households are those in which one or more household members experienced hunger due to lack of financial resources in the past year.

For more information on the USDA’s “Household Food Security in the United States, 2004”, visit www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err11 .



Editor's Note: Food Processing has recently written about and encouraged the relationship between the food industry and America's Second Harvest. See the following articles from the October issue: "Editor's Plate: Second Harvest … now and year-round" and "Processors answer the clarion call."

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