Sharon November 17th, 2009
So here are the numbers. One in nine (and probably soon one in eight) families need food stamps to keep food on the table. And despite the fact that we are subsidizing food at a vast rate – seriously, think about the enormous impact of subsidizing food for 37 million Americans – they are still hungry. The USDA report that was just released apparently shocked the President, who equally apparently, hasn’t been paying attention.
In a year, despite food stamps and other resources, the USDA reports that 17 million Americans went hungry. One out of every *FIVE* children went hungry last year – a jump from one in six last year. Child hunger is increasing dramatically, much faster than adult hunger. In some states in the midwest, including Ohio and Illinois, the numbers were one out of three. Think about that – about the fact that in the middle of the densest stands of calories in the world, one out of every three kids in a classroom goes hungry. Half a million children are frequently hungry.
For those who think that the food crisis is over, or somehow conveniently far away, this should be a reminder that it is present, and it is now. The hunger numbers have been going up steadily since 2007 – and we mostly pay attention at the holidays. But annual attention isn’t enough anymore – we have to pay attention all the time.
We have spent trillions bailing out the banks, and stimulating the stock market – while we have failed miserably to provide for the most basic needs of our citizenry – food, shelter, health care, protection of the elderly and disabled, a defensive military. This is what government is for – not to micromanage the banks, not to remove risk from those best able to bear it. But we’ve abdicated our real responsibilities.
I’m fortunate in that I write to people who, if they can’t make their government act, know how to act themselves. We’re going to need more gardens, more cooking teachers, more food preservers, more neighbors looking in on one another, more friends lending a helping hand – because someone has to pick up the slack when the government falls down.