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American Hunger, by the Numbers

As I report in next month’s National Geographic feature, “The New Face of Hunger,” millions of American families are struggling with a new kind of hunger. Some of the increase can be traced to a change in definition; in the 1960s, America equated hunger with physical starvation. By the 2000s, though, researchers started asking whether people were skipping meals because they couldn’t afford to eat, coining the term “food insecurity” to replace hunger. And with wages stagnating and public support of commodity crops far exceeding that for produce, the number of food insecure Americans now far outstrips the number of those who were ever counted as “hungry.” But don’t take my word for it: The numbers speak for themselves.

How bad is the new American hunger?

Millions of people hungry in the U.S. in 1968   10

Millions of people food insecure in the U.S. in 2012   49 Read more

Nine International Projects Making Wasted Food Edible Again

There is no denying it: Food waste is a serious problem. When we take farm, retail, and domestic waste into account, an estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten. And while a great deal of systematic change is in order, one solution is to make sure we eat more food deemed inedible.

You may have heard about the scheme by ex-Trader Joe’s executive, Doug Rauch, to sell prepared meals using “expired” foods.” Well, he’s not the only one doing his part to put unused food to good use. From jam to wine byproducts, here is a list of businesses and organizations rescuing food from the waste bin. Read more

Farm Bill 2014: Business as Usual for Big Agriculture

“This isn’t your father’s Farm Bill.” These were the optimistic words of Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, in a statement on her Web site Tuesday, after the Senate voted to finally pass a farm bill. The $1-trillion dollar, five-year bill had been in the works for over two years, prompting food and agriculture companies to spend $150 million in lobbying dollars.

And let’s face it, any movement in Congress feels long overdue and a little relieving these days, simply because it’s just so rare. But does this new bill really represent a radical departure from farm bills past? Not so much. Read more

The Anti Hunger-Industrial Complex

What do fast food worker strikes and a DC living wage ordinance have in common with Hunger Action Month? Unfortunately, not enough. A wave of one-day strikes against fast food restaurants is rolling across the country. On August 29, thousands of workers in more than 50 cities protested their low wages, demanding a raise to $15/hour. In Washington, Mayor Vincent Gray has on his desk the Large Retailer Accountability Act that would raise minimum wage for employees of new Walmart stores to $12.50/hour, up from current average of $8.81 nationally. Walmart has threatened to halt construction on three new stores in the nation’s capital if he signs the bill. Read more

What Are the Solutions? A Place at the Table, Reviewed

Participant Media Films has a provocative mission. Through their films and partnerships with companies and organizations, they create social action campaigns, with the hope to entertain their viewers and ignite dialogue around world issues. Many of their mainstream documentaries of the last decade declare that our food system is broken. Films on fast food, animal welfare, factory farming, and now hunger have entered our dialogue to expose parts of the system that need fixing and reform.

Their new food documentary, A Place at the Table, seeks to uncover the stories of a few families who face poor quality of life and food insecurity due to lack of nourishing food in their daily lives. Read more

“The Hunger Games:” Fantasy or Prophecy?

“I’m going to see ‘The Hunger Games’ on Thursday night with Eli. It opens at midnight,” announced my fifteen year old son, Owen.  “On a school night?” I respond incredulously, “how about waiting until Friday night?” “Mom, this is a really important movie. I’ve been waiting for it to come out for two years.”

For those of you not yet in the know, “The Hunger Games” is based on Suzanne Collin’s eponymous best-selling book aimed at the young adult market. Owen devoured the book (which has now sold over 10 million copies) in his seventh grade English class. Not drawn to dystopian fiction myself, I listened in quiet horror as he explained the plot: Read more

Hunger In The Fields

Across the United States, farmworkers are having difficulty getting enough to eat. And they’re not alone: Rural communities as a whole are poorer and less able to feed themselves than their urban counterparts. In regions where our food is being grown, access to it is limited and the people who grow it are unable to afford it when it is available. Lack of transportation, fear, and other social issues increase farmworkers’ isolation and limit their food choices even more. The food security movement, working to increase access for communities at risk of hunger, tends to overlook rural people–and especially those who work in the fields. Read more

GROWing a movement

The movement for reform to our flawed food system is growing stronger every day. Cooks, consumers, and campaigners alike are waking up in increasing numbers to the dangerous and unsustainable impacts of the way much of our food is grown, sold, and consumed.

This progress could not come at a more important moment. Our global food system works only for the few–for most of us it is broken. It leaves consumers lacking sufficient power and knowledge about what we buy and eat and almost a billion people hungry worldwide, millions of whom live here in the U.S. Read more

The Child Nutrition Bill: A Litmus Test for Future Food Policy

When the House returns to work this week they will likely be considering the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, twice extended as legislators struggled over the details. According to The Hill 80 percent of Americans support expansion of the act to “provide healthier food and cover more kids.” Yet in the current climate of economic crisis, finding the funding for this expansion has been a nearly insurmountable challenge. If this bill is not passed within the current lame-duck session, the new session of Congress will have to start over, perhaps with a diminished commitment to its expansion. In fact, there is reason to believe that there will be no work done the week after Thanksgiving, which means this week is make-or-break week for the bill. Read more