Patrick Martin: Hunger in America

Some 15 percent of US households, 17.4 million families or about 50 million people, were too poor to buy adequate food last year, according to a new report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). More than a third of these households, with as many as one million children, were missing meals on a regular basis, the study found. The number of families classified as 'food insecure' according to the USDA, which administers the food stamp program, has more than tripled since 2006, before the current economic slump which has brought near double-digit unemployment. Because most people are reluctant to admit they have a problem putting food on the table, particularly when they have children, food insecurity was calculated from survey questions about skipping meals or running out of food stamps, combined with with comparisons of income and food prices. Virtually the sole cause of food insecurity in America, the largest producer of agricultural and food products on the planet is lack of money: The poverty rate has risen sharply over the past three years, with an estimated 50 million people living below the official poverty line,which grossly underestimates the income needed for basic necessities. Highlighting the significant inequalities in food resource availability across US households, the USDA report noted that the typical food-secure household spent a whopping 33 percent more on food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and household composition.
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