Facts of the Matter -- Hunger in the United States
Host & Hunger By Jim Zingarelli, Massachusetts, USA
T he Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 1.02 billion people in the world are suffering from undernourishment. That is a substantial increase from 2006, when about 873 million were undernourished.
- The number of people enduring hunger today represents about one-sixth of the global population. More than half (642 million) live in Asia and the Pacific, and more than a quarter (265 million) are in sub-Saharan Africa. FAO estimates that 15 million undernourished people are living in developed countries.
- In the United States, hunger is often less severe than the clinical malnutrition found in developing countries. Although starvation is rare given the availability of federal assistance, millions of Americans face what the government calls “food insecurity” – disruptions in eating patterns and reduced food intake due to adverse economic conditions.
- In 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 49.1 million people in the United States, including 16.7 million children, experienced food insecurity. More than 20 percent of American children were food insecure at some time during the year. The U.S. hunger level in 2008 was the highest since 1995, the first year in which the Department of Agriculture conducted its annual survey.
- During 2008, 14.6 percent of U.S. households experienced food insecurity, a substantial increase from 11.1 percent in 2007. The prevalence of food insecurity was particularly high among African American (25.7 percent) and Hispanic (26.9 percent) households.
- The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2008. More than 40 million people in the United States (one in eight) received help from SNAP in March 2010, seven million more than in March 2009. A recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that 50 percent of U.S. children will live in households that receive support from SNAP before they reach age 20.
- In the areas of the world where hunger is declining, progress has come slowly. Of the 79 countries monitored by FAO, only eight reduced the number of undernourished people by at least half between 1990 and 2006: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ghana, Guyana, Jamaica, Myanmar, and Nicaragua. Only eight other nations are on track to cut hunger in half by 2015, a goal set at the World Food Summit in 1996 and the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000.
- To accommodate the expected rise in the world’s population from 6.8 billion to 9.1 billion in 2050, global food production will need to increase by 70 percent.