Americans Increasingly Worried About Hunger

Published on Friday, October 10, 2008 by One World.net

Americans Increasingly Worried About Hunger
by Haider Rizvi

NEW YORK- People with low income in the United States are feeling increasingly insecure about their ability to buy food, according to a new study released by an independent research group.

“As the economy continues its downward trend, concerns about hunger will only intensify,” said Jim Weill, president of the Washington, DC-based Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), which published the study Thursday.

The research indicates that a substantial majority of working families have lost their trust in the federal government’s ability to address the issue of growing levels of hunger and that the next administration must pay close attention to it.

The study’s findings show there is strong public opinion in favor of the need for a comprehensive debate among candidates for the White House and other public offices on the issue of hunger and food insecurity.

“This is an issue that candidates have not focused on, but one that needs to be part of the political debate for president,” Weill added in a statement. “Voters deserve to hear exactly where candidates stand and their plans to address the problem.”

The FRAC poll found more than three in five voters seemed more likely to support a presidential candidate who makes fighting hunger a top priority and nearly nine out of 10 said that support for hunger issues is important when voting for a member of Congress.

The report’s authors said 94 percent of respondents believe it’s important for the federal government to fund anti-hunger programs, including school lunches and special nutrition programs for women and infants.

They said polls also showed that more than 60 percent of people were in favor of a temporary increase in monthly food stamp benefits as part of an economic stimulus package, adding that last year about 27 percent of people expressed their concerns about food insecurity.

By contrast, they said, the percentage of people with at least slight worries about food has risen to 57 percent.

Citing a 2007 survey commissioned by Hormel Foods, researchers said over 50 percent of Americans do not believe that, as a country, the United States is adequately protecting its people from going hungry.

Though critical of the lack of an effective federal policy on food security, some non-profit groups are taking innovative steps to address the problem of hunger at home and abroad.

Last month, for example, the international humanitarian aid group Action Against Hunger joined hands with Weight Watchers, a well-known provider of weight management services, to launch a new campaign aiming to involve affluent Americans to improve their health through good nutrition while providing food for the poor.

Through the nationwide campaign, billed as “Lose for Good,” Weight Watchers has pledged to donate the cost of one pound of food — up to a ceiling of $1 million — for each pound of weight their members lose.

“[It is] to further inspire [our] members as they take the first step on a journey towards improving their well-being,” said Weight Watchers president David Kirchhoff, “In doing so, they will help others by converting their weight loss into another person’s gain.”

In a statement, Nan Dale, executive direction of Action Against Hunger, appreciated Weight Watchers’ move and expressed hope that its philanthropic effort would help reduce hunger in the United States and 40 other countries.

“By coupling the reward of improved personal health with the knowledge that members’ efforts will help feed malnourished children around the globe,” Dale said, “the campaign is truly an innovative, win-win initiative.”

According to the organization Food Not Bombs, every year, about 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. Experts say about 30 million people in the United States could be fed with just 1 out of every 25 pounds of wasted food.

In a 2006 report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledged that more than 35 million people in the United States were threatened by hunger. Of them, about 13 million were children, with most in non-white working families.

Official studies show Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Arizona as some of the states that continue to have the highest rates of food insecurity.

© 2008 One World

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