Hunger Games: Reporters and Pundits Greatly Exaggerate Hunger in America
By James D. Agresti
April 11, 2013
Journalists and commentators are misleading the public to believe that a large portion of Americans are going hungry. Following in the footsteps of Paul Kurtz of CBS News, Bob Beckel of Fox News, and Paul Krugman of the New York Times, Stoyan Zaimov of the Christian Post recently made it seem that hunger is far more common than reality. In an article entitled, “Child Poverty, Hunger Rates in US Remain Alarmingly High,” Zaimov reported:
Alarming statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month revealed that hunger and poverty rates in the country remain high, particularly among African-American children.
The U.S. Census Bureau determined that 25.1 percent of African-American households and 29.2 percent of households with children are food insecure. …
The high rate of children going hungry in America is notable, especially considering that the U.S. regularly ranks high in global lists measuring quality of life.
In stark contrast, the latest USDA/Census data on hunger (page 12) reveals that 1.3% of households with children had a child who was hungry at least once during 2011. The same report (page 19) also shows that on any given day, an average of 0.18% of households with children had a child who was hungry. This first measure of hunger (at least once during 2011) is 22 times lower than the “29.2 percent” figure cited by Zaimov, and the second measure (the average on any given day) is 162 times lower.
Like Kurtz and Beckel, Zaimov misinformed his audience by equating the term “food insecure” with “hunger.” In fact, most food-insecure households never experience hunger during any point of the year. As the USDA has explained, “Households classified as having low food security have reported multiple indications of food access problems, but typically have reported few, if any, indications of reduced food intake.” Revealingly, prior to 2006, the USDA labeled this same category of household “food insecure without hunger.”
USDA surveys on food security classify households into three main categories: “food secure,” “low food security,” or “very low food security.” In 2011, 85.1% of households were food secure throughout the entire year, while 9.2% had low food security, and 5.7% had very low food security. Households with very low food security were previously labeled “food insecure with hunger,” but even among these households, 35.4% of survey respondents reported that they had not been hungry during any point of the year (page 17).
Furthermore, a footnote in the latest USDA report reveals, “Not all individuals residing in food-insecure households were directly affected by the households’ food insecurity. … Young children, in particular, are often protected from effects of the households’ food insecurity.”
Although Zaimov wrote that the “25.1 percent” and “29.2 percent” figures were “released by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month,” these figures actually come from the same USDA report referenced above (pages 11 and 13), which was published in September 2012 and contains survey data from 2011.
Zaimov, like Kurtz and Krugman, did not provide a link to support the figures he cited, making it difficult for readers to verify his claims. Zaimov responded to an email about this matter, acknowledging that the figures he cited were from the September 2012 report and stating that his editors will correct this error. However, Zaimov signaled no intent to correct the misleading presentation of hunger rates, writing:
I contacted World Vision (and a few other organizations) regarding the report and statistics, and they focused their answers less on the numbers and more on efforts to address the problem: http://www.worldvision.org
I cannot say with any amount of security and knowledge of the actual facts, but it does seem unlikely that any significant number of American children or adults are going hungry! With the access to food stamps and food banks, most everyone has access to acquiring food! Just in my small, rural area/community, I personally know of 2 food banks. I strongly believe that most all American churches have some sort of outreach set up to meet the needs of the less fortunate/hungry people in their community/neighborhoods. I would also say with high confidence that the majority of Americans would reach out to anyone they knew was in need of food/basic necessities on a daily basis!
We have been and still are a very BLESSED nation in so many ways!! I thank God every day for my electricity, running hot/cold water, air conditioning/heat, food in my cabinets, my ability to refrigerate/freeze food items for prevention of spoiling/infection, ability to wash/dry my clothes, and the list goes on!! Those are ALL luxuries I enjoy every day!! I give praise, credit, and honor to my God for all those blessings He has given me every day!!
So very many other countries and their MILLIONS of inhabitants cannot say what I just did!! Their people are truly going hungry, suffering, infected with diseases that are non-existent in America!
Well, not everyone. I know when I was unemployed and almost went under, the state ignored me as a single white male. There’s TANF and WIC for families and women, there’s “refugee assistance” for illegal immigrants, but white men, they just shrug. I was able to get work at the last possible second, but the government does not help everyone.
When I look around at all the overweight Americans, I often think that it is not hunger, but poor nutrition, that affects many people. Is this a financial issue or is it that folks are making bad food choices?????????
I Have akways wondered why we have so many hungry people. Something doersn’t compute. We have help wanted signs all over town and nodody fills the jobs. Why don’t some really hungry people fill them?
Not long ago one of the agencies that feed hungry (?) people, asserted it needed to increase giving by 33% over the previous year (2017). Yet, our county lost population during 2017. How come the agency needs so much more? For a rust-belt county, we have new building going up all over the place.
In this country we have all sorts of free government food. We have food stamps, school lunch programs, school breakfast programs, government-backed programs. We are the most charitable people on the planet. We have Salvation Army, United Way, food banks, church outreach. Several local restaurants give day-old food to soup kitchens. It may be too old for paying customers but not for hungry people.
From what I can see there is plenty of supply. Why doesn’t it get to the hungry people that need it? Drugs? Parents that don’t want to be beholden to others? I suspect there if few of those.