5 Myths About Hunger in America

By Robert Egger
Sunday, November 21, 2010

Starving Pilgrims, food-bearing Indians — in legend if not in fact, Thanksgiving has always been about keeping hunger at bay. Yet, four centuries after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, Mass., not everyone in the New World can count on a full cupboard when mealtime rolls around. Since donated turkeys and cans of cranberry sauce solve our hunger problem only one day a year, it’s worth taking a hard look at some myths about who’s hungry in America and why.

1. No one goes hungry in America.

Hunger is supposed to happen in other places – in distant countries where droughts or storms or famine compel us to donate money and oblige our government to send relief workers and food aid. In reality, hunger also hits much closer to home.

According to a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 17.4 million American families – almost 15 percent of U.S. households – are now “food insecure,” an almost 30 percent increase since 2006. This means that, during any given month, they will be out of money, out of food, and forced to miss meals or seek assistance to feed themselves.

Even those who get three meals a day may be malnourished. Americans increasingly eat cheap, sugary foods whose production is underwritten by government subsidies for the corn and dairy industries. As the New York Times reported this month, the USDA loudly promotes better eating habits while quietly working with Domino’s to develop a new line of pizzas with 40 percent more cheese.

Obesity is related to hunger, too, thanks to our poor food choices and the lack of healthy food options in many communities. Many of us may be packing on the pounds, but they are life-threatening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 percent of adults are obese. The number of children who struggle with their weight is increasing, particularly among Latinos. Diet-related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes are now on the list of the leading causes of death in America. We are dying not because we aren’t eating, but because we’re eating the wrong things.

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