This is Hunger Action Month and we are told that one in six Tennesseans "struggle with hunger." I don't believe it! I have never believed the hype about hunger. I remember a few years ago there was a ad, with sad music in the background, for some organization fighting hunger that went something like this: "It could be the person you work next to, it could be that person you ride the bus with every morning but x number of x number of people go to bed hungry every night." I didn't believe it then and do not believe it now. I thought, if they go to bed hungry it is probably because they are on a diet.
Most of my working career, I have worked one way or the other with poor people and people in crisis. I don't know that I have ever witnesses real hunger. At one time the place where I work was an outlet for Nashville's Table and Second Harvest Food Bank. The food people got from that place supplemented their budget and helped them, but I don't think many of the clients were hungry and maybe it was because of these agencies they were not hungry, but those agencies were there. Even among the homeless there is an abundance of free meals in Nashville. This is link to a list of 113 food pantries in Nashville.
What do people really mean by "hunger?" Well notice that the campaign does not say they are starving or have nothing to eat or do not know where their next meal is coming from; it says they "struggle" with hunger. I think "struggles with hunger" is synonymous with "food insecurity" and that means "without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life." Here is how an article in Forbes called, 29 Uncomfortable Myths About Soaring Poverty In America described it:
21. Today, approximately 17 million children in the United States are facing food insecurity. In other words, that means that “one in four children in the country is living without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life.”
Food insecurity is one of those odd numbers again. It’s whether the household has ever skipped a meal in the year, or had a less than adequately nutritious one, or even had to drop the quality of their menu, as a result of not having the money to buy food. So having to have pasta with ketchup for lunch and dinner because Pops blew the food budget on a bottle of whiskey counts here. We can indeed call this poverty if we want to but it’s obviously not an extreme form of it.We have 47 million Americans on food stamps (now called SNAP) and our local school system decided to give free breakfast and lunch to every child in school and end the necessity to qualify for free or reduced lunch. We are very generous to the poor in America. We are so generous that people become trapped in poverty and it is too expensive to stop being poor. If one is eligible for Aid to Dependent children, medicaid, public housing, earned income tax credit, food stamps and a free telephone and gets the free stuff such as clothes and schools supplies and Christmas gifts from non-profit agencies, it takes a lot of money to equal that same level of income one has living in poverty. If one tries to enter the workforce and fails, then they must requalify for those benefits and there may be a long waiting list for some of them. It is easier to stay poor.
Why do we sensationalize hunger? I have some theories. (1) The non-profits and government bureaucrats want to keep their job. If the problem does not appear a severe crisis then people may not give and tax payers may be more demanding that government spending be cut. (2) There is a political payoff to perpetuating a myth that times are really bad and only the government can help hurting people and that the wealth needs to be redistributed. Democrats are looked upon as the party that cares about poor people so by spreading a perception that there is widespread hunger in America it helps Democrats stay in office. (4) It is simply advertising and advertisers exaggerate and lie. These agencies helping the poor will get more money to help the poor if the situation appears dire. They have advertising agencies create a fund raising campaign. And, (4) it makes good copy and TV. The liberal media shares the world view of other liberal but also a story about hunger in the richest country in the world makes a good story.
I am not opposed to programs to help families in poverty. I do think food stamps is out of control and there is a lot of waste and corruption in the program and the food stamp program needs to be cut, but I am not opposed to programs that help the poor. I occasionally give to the Nashville Rescue Mission or buy a homeless newspaper or contribute to Second Harvest or Meals-on-Wheels. These are good programs. I hate to see food go to waste and I think Nashville's Table and Second Harvest are good programs. I admire the work done by all the churches who help the poor supplement there food budget. However, it is dishonest and unnecessary to create an impression that there is widespread hunger in America.