The Scandal Of Hunger In America


Today, about 49 million Americans experience what the US government refers to as “food insecurity with hunger”. It is Thanksgiving, a perfect time to reflect on hunger. Hunger is a miserable feeling and a powerful word that rightly produces anger and outrage. Today’s hunger and poverty crisis is similar, in scope, to the one of the Great Depression.

One in six people in America suffer from chronic hunger. In a nation that is both, the world’s largest economy and its most productive food producer, it is simply not acceptable. In Los Angeles, one of the wealthiest cities in California, which is the world’s eight largest economy and America’s top agricultural state, one in eight people suffer from hunger.

Los Angeles county is in the middle of an unprecedented hunger crisis with over 1 million people confronting hunger and food insecurity on a daily basis. This is not including the homeless population, which is currently estimated at 100,000 in Los Angeles county. One in eight Angelinos must often make the decision between paying the rent or buying food to feed themselves and their families. The daily struggle of 1 million people in Los Angeles that  the US government defines, in an understatement, as “food insecurity” is real, and it is on a dramatic rise all across America.

In the wake of the economic crisis, with unemployment numbers increasing and families losing their homes to foreclosure, more and more people are becoming food insecure. In Los Angeles, the number of people utilizing emergency food services has increased by 41 percent since 2008, with at least one in six people receiving food aid identified as never having received assistance in the past. The number of people receiving food stamps in Los Angeles is at an all time high of 795,000. The food stamps program was originally launched by Lyndon Johnson in 1964 under his comprehensive program of “war on poverty”.

Not surprisingly, children and seniors are at greatest risk from suffering from hunger: 25 percent of children in Los Angeles county are food insecure and about 50 percent of independent elderly do not have enough money to buy adequate food. Furthermore, the lack of healthy affordable food has led to an obesity epidemic that reaches 55 percent of adults in Los Angeles, and 25 percent of children. This, in return, presents a growing public health risk. On a local and state levels, these problems have been magnified by a major budget crisis. Governor Schwarzenegger’s reaction to California’s budget crisis was to cut back programs that address poverty and hunger.

Not only the overall political decisions at local, state and federal levels are absurd, but they lack the most basic morality. The ruling class of conservative Republicans, corporate Democrats and CEOs are de facto practicing social Darwinism. The super rich in America such as Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and the “masters of the universe” from Wall Street give to charities in large amounts. But this substitution of what should be good governance and  local, state and federal social safety net for 49 million Americans is not truly helping. It helps the super-rich feel less guilty, but it doesn’t change the system or even start scratching the surface of the root problems hiding in plain sight behind hunger and poverty.

Our tax dollars are wrongly spent on all level of government. For example, in Los Angeles, the lion share of the city budget is spent on the police department. Sate wide the amount of money spent on the prison system is astronomical. Instead of hiring more cops and incarcerating more people, it would be a wise and durable investment  to invest in good and free public education. Federally, the waste of our tax dollars and resources is just as absurd. Next Tuesday, President Obama will try to justify his escalation of the war in Afghanistan. By sending more troops to Afghanistan, the astronomical defense budget will keep going up and is likely to reach 700 billion in 2010.

Meanwhile, 49 million of Americans are going hungry every day. Globally, 1 billion people suffer from chronic hunger. It is Thanksgiving, and while the executives of Goldman Sacks, which are getting ready to pay themselves 21 billion in bonuses, have too much to be thankful for, the 49 million Americans going hungry every day should be resentful of a system that has let them down.


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