Hunger in the United States

Hunger in the United States is an issue that affects millions of Americans,[1] including some who are middle class,[2] or who are in households where all adults are in work.[2] Research from the USDA found that 14.9% of American households were food insecure during at least some of 2011, with 5.7% suffering from very low food security.[3] Journalists and charity workers have reported further increased demand for emergency food aid during 2012 and 2013.

The United States produces far more food than it needs for domestic consumption—hunger within the U.S. is caused by some Americans having insufficient money to buy food for themselves or their families. Additional causes of hunger and food insecurity include neighborhood deprivation and agricultural policy.[4][5] Hunger is addressed by a mix of public and private food aid provision. Public interventions include changes to agricultural policy, the construction of supermarkets in underserved neighborhoods, investment in transportation infrastructure, and the development of community gardens.[6][7][8][9] Private aid is provided by food pantries, soup kitchens, food banks, and food rescue organizations.[1][10][11]

In the later half of the twentieth century, other advanced economies in Europe and Asia began to overtake the U.S. in terms of reducing hunger among their own populations. In 2011, a report presented in the New York Times found that among 20 economies recognized as advanced by the International Monetary Fund and for which comparative rankings for food security were available, the U.S. was joint worst.[12] Nonetheless, in March 2013, the Global Food Security Index commissioned by DuPont, ranked the U.S. number one for food affordability and overall food security.[13]

US Food Insecurity
Infographic about food insecurity in the US
Food Insecurity by Household
Food insecurity by household in America, 2012
US Navy 110623-N-ZZ999-047 Aviation Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (Handling) Donya Craig, right, serves chicken to a patron at Norma Todd's Lunch Brea
Members of the United States Navy serving hungry Americans at a soup kitchen in Red Bank, N.J., during a community service project

Hunger vs. food insecurity

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity is "a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food." [14] Hunger, on the other hand, is defined as "an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity." [14] The USDA has also created a language to describe various severities of food insecurity.[14] High food security occurs when there are "no reported indications of food-access problems or limitations." [14] Marginal food security occurs when there are one to two reported indications of "food-access problems or limitations" such as anxiety over food shortages in the household but no observable changes in food intake or dietary patterns.[14] Low food security, previously called food insecurity without hunger, occurs when individuals experience a decrease in the "quality, variety, or desirability of diet" but do not exhibit reduced food intake.[14] Very low food security, previously called food insecurity with hunger, is characterized by "multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake." [14]


Hunger and poverty

Hunger in the United States is caused by a complex combination of factors. There is not a single cause attributed to hunger and there is much debate over who or what is responsible for the prevalence of hunger in the United States. However, researchers most commonly focus on the link between hunger and poverty. The federal poverty level is defined as "the minimum amount of income that a household needs to be able to afford housing, food, and other basic necessities."[15] As of 2014, the federal poverty level for a family of four was $23,850.[16]

Based on her research on poverty, Pennsylvania State University economic geographer Amy Glasmeier claims that when individuals live at, slightly above, or below the poverty line, unexpected expenses contribute to individuals reducing their food intake.[17] Medical emergencies have a significant impact on poor families due to the high cost of medical care and hospital visits. Also, urgent car repairs reduce a family's ability to provide food, since the issue must be addressed in order to allow individuals to travel to and from work.[17] Although income cannot be labeled as the sole cause of hunger, it plays a key role in determining if people possess the means to provide basic needs to themselves and their family.

The loss of a job reflects a core issue that contributes to hunger - employment insecurity.[17] People who live in areas with higher unemployment rates and who have a minimal or very low amount of liquid assets are shown to be more likely to experience hunger or food insecurity. The complex interactions between a person's job status, income and benefits, and the number of dependents they must provide for, influence the impact of hunger on a family.[18] For example, food insecurity often increases with the number of additional children in the household due to the negative impact on wage labor hours and an increase in the household's overall food needs.[19]

Despite research on the correlation between poverty and hunger, comparison of data from the December Supplement of the 2009 Current Population Survey illustrated that poverty is not a direct causation of hunger. Of all household incomes near the federal poverty line, 65% were identified as food secure while 20% of households above the poverty line with an income-to-poverty ratio of approximately two were labeled as food insecure.[20] The income-to-poverty ratio is a common measure used when analyzing poverty. In this particular case, it means that these households' total family income was approximately twice that of the federal poverty line for their specific family size.[21] As this data illustrates, the factors which contribute to hunger are interrelated and complex.

Neighborhood deprivation

An additional contributor to hunger and food insecurity in the United States is neighborhood deprivation.[4] According to the Health & Place Journal, neighborhood deprivation is the tendency for low-income, minority neighborhoods to have greater exposure to unhealthy tobacco and alcohol advertisements, a fewer number of pharmacies with fewer medications, and a scarcity of grocery stores offering healthy food options in comparison to small convenience stores and fast-food restaurants.[4] These neighborhoods are often referred to as "food deserts," as the lack of supermarkets prevents individuals from being able to access affordable and healthy food options.[4]

There are several theories that attempt to explain why food deserts form.[4] One theory proposes that the expansion of large chain supermarkets results in the closure of smaller-sized, independent neighborhood grocery stores.[4] Market competition thereby produces a void of healthy food retailers in low-income neighborhoods.[4]

Another theory suggests that in the period between 1970 and 1988, there was increasing economic segregation, with a large proportion of wealthy households moving from inner cities to more suburban areas.[4] As a result, the median income in the inner cities rapidly decreased, causing a substantial proportion of supermarkets in these areas to close.[4]

Furthermore, business owners and managers are often discouraged from establishing grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods due to reduced demand for low-skilled workers, low-wage competition from international markets, zoning laws, and inaccurate perceptions about these areas.[4]

Agricultural policy

Another cause of hunger is related to agricultural policy. Due to the heavy subsidization of crops such as corn and soybeans, healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables are produced in lesser abundance and generally cost more than highly processed, packaged goods.[5] Because unhealthful food items are readily available at much lower prices than fruits and vegetables, low-income populations often heavily rely on these foods for sustenance.[5] As a result, the poorest people in the United States are often simultaneously undernourished and overweight or obese.[5][6] This is because highly processed, packaged goods generally contain high amounts of calories in the form of fat and added sugars yet provide very limited amounts of essential micronutrients.[5] These foods are thus said to provide "empty calories." [5]

Impact of hunger


In 2011 16.7 million children lived in food-insecure households, about 35% more than 2007 levels, though only 1.1% of U.S. children, or 845,000, saw reduced food intake or disrupted eating patterns at some point during the year, and most cases were not chronic.[22]

Almost 16 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2012.[23] Schools throughout the country had 21 million children participate in a free or reduced lunch program and 11 million children participate in a free or reduced breakfast program. The extent of American youth facing hunger is clearly shown through the fact that 47% of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) participants are under the age of 18.[23] The states with the highest rate of food insecure children were North Dakota, Minnesota, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts as of 2012.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.

Children who experience hunger have an increase in both physical and psychological health problems. Although there is not a direct correlation between chronic illnesses and hunger among children, the overall health and development of children decreases with exposure to hunger and food insecurity.[24] Children are more likely to get ill and require a longer recovery period when they don't consume the necessary amount of nutrients. Additionally, children who consume a high amount of highly processed, packaged goods are more-likely to develop chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease due to these food items containing a high amount of calories in the form of added sugars and fats.[20][5] In regards to academics, children who experience hunger perform worse in school on both mathematic and reading assessments. Children who consistently start the day with a nutritious breakfast have an average increase of 17.5% on their standardized math scores than children who regularly miss breakfast.[23]

Behavioral issues arise in both the school environment and in the children's ability to interact with peers of the same age. This is identified by both parental and teacher observations and assessments. Hunger takes a psychological toll on youth and negatively affects their mental health. Their lack of food contributes to the development of emotional problems and causes children to have visited with a psychiatrist more often than their sufficiently fed peers.[25] Research shows that hunger plays a role in late youth and young adult depression and suicidal ideation. It was identified as a factor in 5.6% of depression and suicidal ideation cases in a Canadian longitudinal study.[26]

College students

College students are also significantly impacted by the negative effects of experiencing food insecurities. A correlational study at one Oregon university reported that 59% of their college students experienced food insecurities.[27] Similar studies found prevalence rates to be higher among college students relative to the general population.[27] For example, in 2016, 32% of college freshmen, who lived in residence halls from a large southwestern university, self-reported inconsistent access to food in the past month.[28] Additionally, a correlational study conducted at the University of Hawaii at Manoa found that 21-24% of their undergraduate students were food-insecure or at risk of food insecurity.[29]

Students of color are more likely to be affected by food insecurities.[30] Furthermore, according to a correlational study examining the undergraduate student population from universities in Illinois, African American students were more likely to report being very-low food secure compared to other racial groups.[31] Similarly, the aforementioned study from the University of Hawaii at Manoa found that their undergraduate students, who identified as Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Filipinos, and mixed-race, were more likely to be at increased risk of food insecurity compared to Japanese students.[29]

College students struggling with access to food are more likely to experience negative effects during their college careers. For example, in 2013, a study examining undergraduate students attending universities in Illinois found statistically significant relationships between food security status and socio-demographic variables including race, grade point average, loan use, and living location.[31] In terms of academics, college students with food insecurities were more likely to report grade point averages below a 3.0.[31] In addition, students who were employed were twice as likely to report experiencing a food insecurity.[27] Similarly, according to a correlational study conducted at the University of Alabama in 2011, undergraduate students who received financial aid and were financially independent, were at significantly higher risk of experiencing food insecurities.[32] Researchers speculated that college students who are working long hours and receiving financial aid are having difficulties in covering increased tuition expenses.[27] As for mental health, according to a correlational study examining college freshmen living in residence halls from a large southwestern university, students who were food-insecure, were more likely to self-report higher levels of depression and anxiety, compared to food-secure students.[28] In examining living situations, students who reported living with roommates, whether on-campus or off-campus, were at higher risk of food insecurity.[29] Furthermore, researchers speculated that students who live at home with their family are less likely to be food insecure, due to spending less on housing expenditures.[29]

Food insecurities among college students are a persistent issue. Researchers suggest the need for college campuses to examine available and accessible food-related resources to help alleviate students’ food insecurity statuses.[32] For example, In 2012, The College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) has identified over 70 campuses that have food pantry resources or in the process of developing one.[30]


Meals on Wheels food prep
Volunteers preparing meals for Meals on Wheels recipients

Like children, the elderly population of the United States are vulnerable to the negative consequences of hunger. Senior citizens are considered to be of 65 years of age or older. In 2011, there was an increase of 0.9% in the number of seniors facing the threat of hunger from 2009. This resulted in a population of 8.8 million seniors who are facing this threat; however, a total of 1.9 million seniors were dealing with hunger at this time.[33] Seniors are particularly vulnerable to hunger and food insecurity largely due to their limited mobility.[34] They are less likely to own a car and drive, and when they live in communities that lack public transportation, it can be quite challenging to access adequate food.[34][35]

The organization Meals on Wheels reports that Mississippi, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Texas are the states with the top rates of seniors facing the threat of hunger respectively.[36] Due to food insecurity and hunger, the elderly population experiences negative effects on their overall health and mental wellbeing. Not only are they more prone to reporting heart attacks, other cardiac conditions, and asthma, but food insecure seniors are also 60% more likely to develop depression.[37]


Minority groups are affected by hunger to far greater extent than the Caucasian population in the United States. According to research conducted by Washington University in St. Louis on food insufficiency by race, 11.5% of Whites experience food insufficiency compared to 22.98% of African Americans, 16.67% of American Indians, and 26.66% of Hispanics when comparing each racial sample group.[38]

Feeding America reports that 29% of all Hispanic children and 38% of all African American children received emergency food assistance in 2010. White children received more than half the amount of emergency food assistance with 11% receiving aid. However, Hispanic household are less likely to have interaction with SNAP than other ethnic groups and received assistance from the program.[39]

Geographic regions

There are distinct differences between how hunger is experienced in the rural and urban settings. Rural counties experience high food insecurity rates twice as often as urban counties. It has been reported that approximately 3 million rural households are food insecure, which is equal to 15 percent of the total population of rural households.[40] This reflects the fact that 7.5 million people in rural regions live below the federal poverty line.[40] This poverty in rural communities is more commonly found in Southern states.[40]

In addition, rural areas possess fewer grocery stores than urban regions with similar population density and geography. However, rural areas do have more supermarkets than similar urban areas.[41] Research has discovered that rural counties' poverty level and racial composition does not have a direct, significant association to supermarket access in the area. Urban areas by contrast have shown through countless studies that an increase in the African American population correlates to fewer supermarkets and the ones available require residents to travel a longer distance.[41] Despite these differences both city and rural areas experience a higher rate of hunger than suburban areas.[40]

Living in regions that are considered food deserts can prevent individuals from easily accessing healthy food markets and grocery stores due to lack of availability. Studies have shown that within these food deserts there exists distinct racial disparities. Compared to Caucasian neighborhoods, predominately African American neighborhoods have been reported to have half the amount of chain supermarkets available to residents.[42]

Despite racial differences, the vast majority of individuals living in food deserts struggle with transportation to food sources. Since these areas are low-income neighborhoods, many families may be unable to have the financial means to easily and regularly access supermarkets or grocery stores that tend to be located far from their home.[42] This acts as an additional obstacle individuals must face when trying to provide food for their family and prevent hunger.

Undocumented communities

Agriculture is a major industry in the United States, with California accounting for over 12% of the U.S. agriculture cash receipts.[43] Over half of agricultural workers in California, contributing to the state's agriculture economy and providing the nation with over half of all fruits and vegetables, are undocumented.[44] Despite undocumented laborers contributing to the agriculture industry, farm work and labor is among one of the lowest paid occupations in the U.S.[45] Many undocumented communities suffer from food insecurity due to low wages, forcing families to purchase economically viable unhealthy food.[46] Though existing food pantry and food stamp programs aid in reducing the amount of food insecure individuals, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for social service programs and studies have found that limited English acts as a barrier to food stamp program participation.[47] Due to a lack of education, encounters with government agents, language barriers, undocumented individuals pose higher rates of food insecurity and hunger when compared to legal citizens. The Trump administration is attempting to draft new stricter immigration policies;[48] undocumented individuals who fear being deported under the new policies, limit their interactions with government agencies, social service programs (e.g., food stamps), increasing their susceptibility to food insecurity.[47]

Food insecurity among undocumented communities can in some cases be traced to environmental injustices. Researchers argue that climate change increases food insecurity due to drought or floods and that the discourse must address issues on food security and on the food systems of the U.S.[49] Another example may be large populations of undocumented communities along the Central Valley of California.[50] Towns located across the Central Valley of CA exhibit some of the highest rates of air, water and pesticide pollution in the state.[51]

Fighting hunger

Public sector hunger relief

As of 2012, the United States government spent about $50 billion annually on 10 programs, mostly administrated by the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, which in total deliver food assistance to one in five Americans.[1]

The largest and only universal[52] program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program. In the 2012 fiscal year, $74.6 billion in food assistance was distributed.[53] As of December 2012, 47.8 million Americans were receiving on average $133.73 per month in food assistance.[53]

Despite efforts to increase uptake, an estimated 15 million eligible Americans are still not using the program. Historically, about 40 million Americans were using the program in 2010, while in 2001, 18 million were claiming food stamps. After cut backs to welfare in the early 1980s and late 1990s, private sector aid had begun to overtake public aid such as food stamps as the fastest growing form of food assistance, although the public sector provided much more aid in terms of volume.[1][54]

This changed in the early 21st century; the public sector's rate of increase in the amount of food aid dispensed again overtook the private sector's. President George W. Bush's administration undertook bipartisan efforts to increase the reach of the food stamp program, increasing its budget and reducing both the stigma associated with applying for aid and barriers imposed by red tape.[1] [55] Cuts in the food stamp programme came into force in November 2013, impacting an estimated 48 million poorer Americans, including 22 million children.[56] Commentators have stated hardship could worsen if a new Farm bill is passed: the version currently backed by the Democrats has a further $4 billion worth of cuts, while the version backed by Republicans would cut food stamps by $40 billion.[57][58]

Most other programs are targeted at particular types of citizen. The largest of these is the School Lunch program, which in 2010 helped feed 32 million children a day. The second largest is the School Breakfast Program, feeding 16 million children in 2010. The next largest is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which provide food aid for about 9 million women and children in 2010.[1]

A program that is neither universal nor targeted is Emergency Food Assistance Program. This is a successor to the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation which used to distribute surplus farm production direct to poor people; now the program works in partnership with the private sector, by delivering the surplus produce to food banks and other civil society agencies.[1]

In 2010, the Obama administration initiated the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) as a means of expanding access to healthy foods in low-income communities.[59] With over $400 million in funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture and the Treasury Department, the initiative promoted interventions such as equipping already existing grocery stores and small retailers with more nutritious food options and investing in the development of new healthful food retailers in rural and urban food deserts.[59]

Agricultural policy

Another potential approach to mitigating hunger and food insecurity is modifying agricultural policy.[6] The implementation of policies that reduce the subsidization of crops such as corn and soybeans and increase subsidies for the production of fresh fruits and vegetables would effectively provide low-income populations with greater access to affordable and healthy foods.[6] This method is limited by the fact that the prices of animal-based products, oils, sugar, and related food items have dramatically decreased on the global scale in the past twenty to fifty years.[6] According to the Nutritional Review Journal, a reduction or removal of subsidies for the production of these foods will not appreciably change their lower cost in comparison to healthier options such as fruits and vegetables.[6]

Supermarket construction

Local and state governments can also work to pass legislation that calls for the establishment of healthy food retailers in low-income neighborhoods classified as food deserts.[7] The implementation of such policies can reduce hunger and food insecurity by increasing the availability and variety of healthy food options and providing a convenient means of access.[7] Examples of this are The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative and The New York City FRESH (Food Retail Expansion Health) program, which promote the construction of supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods by offering a reduction in land or building taxes for a certain period of time and providing grants, loans, and tax exemption for infrastructure costs.[60] Such policies may be limited by the oligopolistic nature of supermarkets, in which a few large supermarket chains maintain the large majority of market share and exercise considerable influence over retail locations and prices.[4]

Transportation infrastructure

If it is unfeasible to implement policies aimed at grocery store construction in low-income neighborhoods, local and state governments can instead invest in transportation infrastructure.[8] This would provide residents of low-income neighborhoods with greater access to healthy food options at more remote supermarkets.[8] This strategy may be limited by the fact that low-income populations often face time constraints in managing employment and caring for children and may not have the time to commute to buy healthy foods.[8] Furthermore, this method does not address the issue of neighborhood deprivation, failing to resolve the disparities in access to goods and services across geographical space.[4]

Community gardens

Local governments can also mitigate hunger and food insecurity in low-income neighborhoods by establishing community gardens.[9] According to the Encyclopedia of Community, a community garden is “an organized, grassroots initiative whereby a section of land is used to produce food or flowers or both in an urban environment for the personal use or collective benefit of its members."[61] Community gardens are beneficial in that they provide community members with self-reliant methods for acquiring nutritious, affordable food.[9] This contrasts with safety net programs, which may alleviate food insecurity but often foster dependency.[9]

According to the Journal of Applied Geography, community gardens are most successful when they are developed using a bottom-up approach, in which community members are actively engaged from the start of the planning process.[9] This empowers community members by allowing them to take complete ownership over the garden and make decisions about the food they grow.[9] Community gardens are also beneficial because they allow community members to develop a better understanding of the food system, the gardening process, and healthy versus unhealthy foods.[9] Community gardens thereby promote better consumption choices and allow community members to maintain healthier lifestyles.[9]

Despite the many advantages of community gardens, community members may face challenges in regard to accessing and securing land, establishing organization and ownership of the garden, maintaining sufficient resources for gardening activities, and preserving safe soils.[9]

Private sector hunger relief

Passing out groceries
Volunteers pass out food items from a Feeding America food bank.

The oldest type of formal hunger relief establishment used in the United States is believed to be the almshouse, but these are no longer in existence. In the 21st century, hunger relief agencies run by civil society include:

  • Food pantries are the most numerous food aid establishment found within the United States. The food pantry hands out packages of grocery to the hungry. Unlike soup kitchens, they invariably give out enough food for several meals, which is to be consumed off the premises. A related establishment is the food closet, which serves a similar purpose to the food pantry, but will never be a dedicated building. Instead a food closet will be a room within a larger builder like a church or community center. Food closets can be found in rural communities too small to support a food pantry. Food pantries often have procedures to prevent unscrupulous people taking advantage of them, such as requiring registration.
  • Soup kitchens, along with similar establishments like food kitchens and meal centers, provide hot meals for the hungry and are the second most common type of food aid agency in the U.S. Unlike food pantry, these establishments usually provide only a single meal per visit, but they have the advantage for the end user of generally providing food with no questions asked.
  • The food bank is the third most common type of food aid agency. While some will give food direct to the hungry, food banks in the U.S. generally provide a warehouse like function, distributing food to front line agencies such as food pantries and soup kitchens.
  • Food rescue organizations also perform a warehouse like function, distributing food to front line organizations, though they are less common and tend to operate on a smaller scale than do food banks. Whereas food banks may receive supplies from large growers, manufacturers, supermarkets and the federal government, rescue organizations typically retrieve food from sources such as restaurants along with smaller shops and farms.

Together, these civil society food assistance establishments are sometimes called the "Emergency Food Assistance System" (EFAS). In 2010, an estimated 37 million Americans received food from the EFAS. However, the amount of aid it supplies is much less than the public sector, with an estimate made in 2000 suggesting that the EFAS is able to give out only about $9.5 worth of food per person per month. According to a comprehensive government survey completed in 2002, about 80% of emergency kitchens and food pantries, over 90% of food banks, and all known food rescue organisations, were established in the US after 1981, with much of the growth occurring after 1991.[1][10][11]

There are several federal laws in the United States that promote food donation.[62] The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act encourages individuals to donate food to certain qualified nonprofit organizations and ensures liability protection to donors.[62] Similarly, Internal Revenue Code 170(e)(3) grants tax deductions to businesses in order to encourage them to donate healthy food items to nonprofit organizations that serve low-income populations.[62] Lastly, the U.S. Federal Food Donation Act of 2008 encourages Federal agencies and Federal agency contractors to donate healthy food items to non-profit organizations for redistribution to food insecure individuals.[62] Such policies curbs food waste by redirecting nutritious food items to individuals in need.[62]


Pre-19th century

John Smith Saved by Pocahontas
Early settlers to North America often suffered from hunger, though some were saved from starvation thanks to aid from Native Americans such as Pocahontas.

British Colonists attempting to settle in North America during the 16th and early 17th century often faced severe hunger. Compared with South America, readily available food could be hard to come by. Many settlers starved to death, leading to several colonies being abandoned. Other settlers were saved after being supplied with food by Native Americans, with the intercession of Pocahontas being a famous example. It did not take long however for colonists to adapt to conditions in the new world, discovering North America to be a place of extraordinary fertility. According to author Peter K. Eisinger, the historian Robert Beverley's portrayal of America as the "Garden of the World" was already a stock image as early as 1705.[63] By the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, hunger was already considerably less severe than in Western Europe. Even by 1750, low prevalence of hunger had helped provide American Colonists with an estimated life expectancy of 51 years, while in Britain the figure was 37, in France 26 - by 1800, life expectancies had improved to 56 years for the U.S., 33 years for France and dropped to 36 years for Britain.[64] The relative scarcity of hunger in the U.S. was due in part to low population pressure in relation to fertile land, and as labor shortages prevented any able-bodied person from suffering from extreme poverty associated with unemployment.[1][64]

19th century

Until the early 19th century, even the poorest citizens of the United States were generally protected from hunger by a combination of factors. The ratio of productive land to population was high. Upper class Americans often still held to the old European ideal of Noblesse oblige and made sure their workers had sufficient food. Labour shortages meant the poor could invariably find a position - although until the American Revolution this often involved indentured servitude, this at least protected the poor from the unpredictable nature of wage labor, and sometimes paupers were rewarded with their own plot of land at the end of their period of servitude. Additionally, working class traditions of looking out for each other were strong.[63][64]

Social and economic conditions changed substantially in the early 19th century, especially with the market reforms of the 1830s. While overall prosperity increased, productive land became harder to come by, and was often only available for those who could afford substantial rates. It became more difficult to make a living either from public lands or a small farm without substantial capital to buy up to date technology. Sometimes small farmers were forced off their lands by economic pressure and became homeless. American society responded by opening up numerous Almshouses, and some municipal officials began giving out small sums of cash to the poor. Such measures did not fully check the rise in hunger; by 1850, life expectancy in the US had dropped to 43 years, about the same as then prevailed in Western Europe.[64]

The number of hungry and homeless people in the U.S. increased in the 1870s due to industrialization. Though economic developments were hugely beneficial overall, driving America's Gilded Age, they had a negative impact on some of the poorest citizens. As was the case in 19th century Britain, many influential Americans believed in classical liberalism and opposed government intervention to help the hungry, as they thought it could encourage dependency and would disrupt the operation of the free market. The 1870s saw the AICP and the American branch of the Charity Organization Society successfully lobby to end the practice where city official would hand out small sums of cash to the poor. Unlike in Britain though, there was no nationwide restrictions on private efforts to help the hungry, and civil society immediately began to provide alternative aid for the poor, establishing soup kitchens in U.S. cities.[63][64][65]

20th century

Nixon 30-0316a
Following the "rediscovery" of hunger in America during the late 1960s, President Richard Nixon addressed Congress saying: "That hunger and malnutrition should persist in a land such as ours is embarrassing and intolerable.... More is at stake here than the health and well-being of 16 million American citizens.... Something very like the honor of American democracy is at issue."[1][10][66]

By the turn of the century, improved economic conditions were helping to reduce hunger for all sections of society, even the poorest.[67] The early 20th century saw a substantial rise in agricultural productivity; while this led to rural unemployment even in the otherwise "roaring" 1920s, it helped lower food prices throughout the United States. During World War I and its aftermath, the U.S. was able to send over 20 million pounds of food to relieve hunger in Europe.[68] The United States has since been a world leader for relieving hunger internationally, although her foreign aid has sometimes been criticised for being poorly targeted and politicised. An early critic who argued against the U.S. on these grounds in the 1940s was Lord Boyd-Orr, the first head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.[69]

The United States' progress in reducing domestic hunger had been thrown into reverse by the Great depression of the 1930s. The existence of hunger within the U.S. became a widely discussed issue due to coverage in the Mass media. Both civil society and government responded. Existing soup kitchens and bread lines run by the private sector increased their opening times, and many new ones were established. Government sponsored relief was one of the main strands of the New Deal launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some of the government established Alphabet agencies aimed to relieve poverty by raising wages, others by reducing unemployment as with the Works Progress Administration. The Federal Surplus Relief Corporation aimed to directly tackle hunger by providing poor people with food.[70] By the late 1940s, these various relief efforts combined with improved economic conditions had been successful in substantially reducing hunger within the United States.[10]

According to sociology professor Janet Poppendieck, hunger within the US was widely considered to be a solved problem until the mid-1960s.[10] By the mid-sixties, several states had ended the free distribution of federal food surpluses, instead providing an early form of food stamps, which had the benefit of allowing recipients to choose food of their liking, rather than having to accept whatever happened to be in surplus at the time. There was however a minimum charge; some people could not afford the stamps, causing them to suffer severe hunger.[10] One response from American society to the rediscovery of hunger was to step up the support provided by private sector establishments like soup kitchens and meal centers. The food bank, a new form of civil society hunger relief agency, was invented in 1967 by John van Hengel.[10] It was not however until the 1980s that U.S. food banks began to experience rapid growth.

A second response to the "rediscovery" of hunger in the mid-to-late sixties, spurred by Joseph S. Clark's and Robert F. Kennedy's tour of the Mississippi Delta, was the extensive lobbying of politicians to improve welfare. The Hunger lobby, as it was widely called by journalists, was largely successful in achieving its aims, at least in the short term. In 1967 a Senate subcommittee held widely publicized hearings on the issue, and in 1969 President Richard Nixon made an emotive address to Congress where he called for government action to end hunger in the U.S.[71]

In the 1970s, U.S. federal expenditure on hunger relief grew by about 500%, with food stamps distributed free of charge to those in greatest need. According to Poppendieck, welfare was widely considered preferable to grass roots efforts, as the latter could be unreliable, did not give recipients consumer-style choice in the same way as did food stamps, and risked recipients feeling humiliated by having to turn to charity. In the early 1980s, President Ronald Reagan's administration scaled back welfare provision, leading to a rapid rise in activity from grass roots hunger relief agencies.[10][72]

Poppendieck says that for the first few years after the change, there was vigorous opposition from the political Left, who argued that the state welfare was much more suitable for meeting recipients needs. But in the decades that followed, while never achieving the reduction in hunger as did food stamps in the 1970s, food banks became an accepted part of America's response to hunger.[10][73] Demand for the services of emergency hunger relief agencies increased further in the late 1990s, after the "end of welfare as we know it" with President Clinton's Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.[74]

21st century

Lauren Bush - Flickr - nick step
Lauren Bush at a 2011 party promoting her FEED charity, which helps fund the United Nations' efforts to feed children throughout the world

In comparison to other advanced economies, the U.S. had high levels of hunger even during the first few years of the 21st century, due in part to greater inequality and relatively less spending on welfare. As was generally the case across the world, hunger in the U.S. was made worse by the lasting global inflation in the price of food that began in late 2006 and by the financial crisis of 2008. By 2012, about 50 million Americans were food insecure, approximately 1 in 6 of the population, with the proportion of children facing food insecurity even higher at about 1 in 4.[1]

Hunger has increasingly begun to sometimes affect even middle class Americans. According to a 2012 study by UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, even married couples who both work but have low incomes will sometimes now require emergency food assistance.[2][75][76]

In the 1980s and 90s, advocates of small government had been largely successful in un-politicizing hunger, making it hard to launch effective efforts to address the root causes, such as changing government policy to reduce poverty among low earners. In contrast to the 1960s and 70s, the 21st century has seen little significant political lobbying for an end to hunger within America, though by 2012 there had been an increase in efforts by various activists and journalists to raise awareness of the problem. American society has however responded to increased hunger by substantially increasing its provision of emergency food aid and related relief, from both the private and public sector, and from the two working together in partnership.[1]

According to a USDA report, 14.3% of American households were food insecure during at least some of 2013, falling to 14% in 2014. The report stated the fall was not statistically significant. The percentage of households experiencing very low food security remained at 5.6% for both 2013 and 2014.[77] In a July 2016 discussion on the importance of private sector engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals, Malcolm Preston the global sustainability leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, suggested that unlike the older Millennial development goals, the SDGs are applicable to the advanced economies due to issues such as hunger in the United States. Preston stated that one in seven Americans struggle with hunger, with food banks in the US now more active than ever.[78]

See also

Notes and references

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  2. ^ a b c Ferreras, Alex (July 11, 2012). "Thousands More in Solano, Napa Counties are Turning to Food Banks". Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2012.
  3. ^ Alisha Coleman-Jensen; Mark Nord; Margaret Andrews; Steven Carlson (September 2013). "Household Food Security in the United States in 2011". United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Walker, Renee; Keane, Christopher; Burke, Jessica (September 2010). "Disparities and access to healthy food in the United States: A review of food deserts literature". Health & Place. 16 (5): 876–884. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2010.04.013. PMID 20462784.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Fields, Scott (October 2004). "The Fat of the Land: Do Agricultural Subsidies Foster Poor Health?". Environmental Health Perspectives. 112 (14): 820–823. doi:10.1289/ehp.112-a820. PMC 1247588. PMID 15471721.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Popkin, Barry; Adair, Linda; Ng, Shu Wen (January 2012). "NOW AND THEN: The Global Nutrition Transition: The Pandemic of Obesity in Developing Countries". Nutrition Reviews. 70 (1): 3–21. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00456.x. PMC 3257829. PMID 22221213.
  7. ^ a b c Story, Mary; Kaphingst, Karen; Robinson-O'Brien, Ramona; Glanz, Karen (2008). "Creating Healthy Food and Eating Environments: Policy and Environmental Approaches". Annual Review of Public Health. 29: 253–272. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.29.020907.090926. PMID 18031223.
  8. ^ a b c d Lopez, Russell P; Hynes, H Patricia (2006). "Obesity, physical activity, and the urban environment: public health research needs". Environmental Health. 5: 5–25. doi:10.1186/1476-069x-5-25. PMC 1586006. PMID 16981988.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Corrigan, Michelle (October 2011). "Growing what you eat: Developing community gardens in Baltimore, Maryland". Applied Geography. 31 (4): 1232–1241. doi:10.1016/j.apgeog.2011.01.017.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Poppendieck, Janet (1999). "Introduction, Chpt 1". Sweet Charity?: Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement. Penguine. ISBN 978-0140245561.
  11. ^ a b Riches, Graham (1986). "passim, see esp. Models of Food Banks". Food banks and the welfare crisis. Lorimer. ISBN 978-0888103635.
  12. ^ "American Shame". New York Times. February 19, 2011. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  13. ^ "Global Food Security Index". London: The Economist Intelligence Unit. March 5, 2013. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
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  18. ^ O'Brien, D., Staley, E., Torres Aldeen, H., & Uchima, S. (2004). The UPS Foundation and the Congressional Hunger Center 2004 Hunger Forum Discussion Paper: Hunger in America (The Definitions, Scope, Causes, History and Status of the Problem of Hunger in the United States). America's Second Harvest.
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  30. ^ a b Cady, Clare (November 2014). "Food Insecurity as a Student Issue" (PDF). Journal of College & Character. 15 (4): 265–272. doi:10.1515/jcc-2014-0031.
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  33. ^ Gundersen, Craig; Ziliak, James (September 1, 2013). "The State of Senior Hunger in America 2011: An Annual Report" (PDF).
  34. ^ a b DeGood, Kevin. "Aging in Place, Stuck without Options: Fixing the Mobility Crisis Threatening the Baby Boom Generation". Transportation for America.
  35. ^ "Improve Access to Nutritious Food in Rural Areas".
  36. ^ Meals On Wheels Research Foundation (2012). "Senior Hunger Report Card".
  37. ^ Jaspreet, Bindra; Borden, Enid (2011). "Spotlight On Senior Health: Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans (Executive Summary)" (PDF).
  38. ^ Heflin, Colleen; Huang, Jin; Nam, Yunju; Sherraden, Michael. "Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Food Insufficiency: Evidence from a Statewide Probability Sample of White, African American, American Indian, and Hispanic Infants". Center for Social Development, Washington University in St. Louis.
  39. ^ Feeding America (2010). "When the Pantry is Bare: Emergency Food Assistance and Hispanic Children (Executive Summary)".
  40. ^ a b c d "Rural Hunger Fact Sheet". Feeding America. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  41. ^ a b Bower, Kelly; Gaskin, Darrell; Rohde, Charles; Thorpe, Roland (January 2014). "The intersection of neighborhood racial segregation, poverty, and urbanicity and its impact on food store availability in the United States". Preventive Medicine. 58: 33–39. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2013.10.010. PMC 3970577. PMID 24161713.
  42. ^ a b Burke, Jessica; Keane, Christopher; Walker, Renee (September 2010). "Disparities and access to healthy food in the United States: A review of food deserts literature". Health & Place. 16 (5): 876–884. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2010.04.013. PMID 20462784.
  43. ^ "Farm Income and Wealth Statistics". United States Department of Agriculture.
  44. ^ "California's Agricultural Employment" (PDF). Labor Market Information.
  45. ^ "Food Workers-Food Justice: Linking food, labor and Immigrant rights" (PDF). Food First Backgrounder.
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  48. ^ Kulish, Nicholas; Yee, Vivian; Dickerson, Caitlin; Robbins, Liz; Santos, Fernanda; Medina, Jennifer (February 21, 2017). "Trump's Immigration Policies Explained". The New York Times.
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  50. ^ "The High Stake in Immigration Reform for Our Communities-Central Valley" (PDF). Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.
  51. ^ "Most Polluted Cities". State Of The Air.
  52. ^ Universal in the sense that anyone who meets the criteria is given aid, unlike most other programs which are targeted at specific types of citizen like children, women or the disabled.
  53. ^ a b SNAP Monthly Data
  54. ^ Becker, Elizabeth (November 14, 2001). "Shift From Food Stamps to Private Aid Widens". New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
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  65. ^ Todd DePastino (2005). Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America. Chicago University Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0226143798.
  66. ^ Richard Nixon (May 3, 1969). "Special Message to the Congress Recommending a Program To End Hunger in America". UCSB. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  67. ^ Although in 1900, U.S. life expectancy was still only estimated at 48 years, 2 years lower than in 1725 – see Fogel (2004) chpt 1.
  68. ^ Hoover, Herbert (1941). History of the United States Food Administration 1917-1919. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 42.
  69. ^ Vernon, James (2007). "Chpt. 5". Hunger: A Modern History. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674026780.
  70. ^ The FSRC also helped farmers by buying food they were unable to sell profitably on the market.
  71. ^ R Shep Melnick (1994). "Chpt. 9: The Surprising success of food stamps". Between the Lines: Interpreting Welfare Rights. Brookings Institution. ISBN 978-0815756637.
  72. ^ Walter, Andrew (2012). William A Dando (ed.). Food and Famine in the 21st Century. ABC-CLIO. pp. 171–181. ISBN 978-1598847307.
  73. ^ "HOUSEHOLD FOOD SECURITY IN THE GLOBAL NORTH: CHALLENGES AND RESPONSIBILITIES REPORT OF WARWICK CONFERENCE" (PDF). Warwick University. July 6, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 12, 2013. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  74. ^ Watson, Debra (May 11, 2002). "Recession and welfare reform increase hunger in US". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
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  78. ^ Slavin, Terry (July 25, 2016). "SDGs: We need more than just sunshine stories". Retrieved August 4, 2016.

External links

A Place at the Table

A Place at the Table is a 2012 film produced by Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson, with appearances by Jeff Bridges, Raj Patel, and chef Tom Colicchio. The film, concerning hunger in the United States, was released theatrically in the United States on March 1, 2013.

Arkansas Foodbank

The Arkansas Foodbank is a non-profit food bank located in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Arkansas Foodbank distributed more than 20.9 million pounds of food and grocery products to its member agencies for Arkansans in need in 2013, according to Chief Executive Officer, Rhonda Sanders.

Established in 1984, the Arkansas Foodbank is a cornerstone of hunger relief. Through local and national partnerships, the Foodbank acquires and distributes large quantities of food and other resources to hungry people. Food and other grocery products are distributed to food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and schools throughout its entire 33-county service area in central and south Arkansas. The Foodbank's central location is a 73,000 sq. ft warehouse in Little Rock, called the Donald W. Reynolds Distribution Center. They also operate two other branches in Caddo Valley and Warren, Arkansas.

More than 270,000 people within the Arkansas Foodbank's 33-county service area don't have a steady source of food; nearly 90,000 of them are children. Last year, the Foodbank distributed 17.4 million meals to their 300 member agencies to help feed the hungry.The Arkansas Foodbank is a member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. They are also a founding member of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. The group is made up of the 6 Feeding America food banks in Arkansas with the goal to create a coordinated effort to reduce hunger in the state.

Epidemiology of malnutrition

There were 795 million undernourished people in the world in 2014, a decrease of 216 million since 1990, despite the fact that the world already produces enough food to feed everyone—7 billion people—and could feed more than that—12 billion people.

Field Foundation of New York

The Field Foundation of New York was one of the two organizations that had split off from the original Field Foundation in 1960, the other being the Field Foundation of Illinois. The foundation in New York was originally led by Ruth Field, the widow of the first Foundation’s creator Marshall Field III. It focused on enacting social change on a more national scale than the Illinois foundation. The New York foundation has a history of supporting racial equality, researching hunger in the United States, and improving the lives of those stuck in poverty. It finally spent itself out of existence in 1989.

Food and Nutrition Service

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The FNS is the federal agency responsible for administering the nation’s domestic nutrition assistance programs. The service helps to address the issue of hunger in the United States.

FNS administers the programs through its headquarters in Alexandria, VA; regional offices in San Francisco, Denver, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, and Robbinsville (NJ); and field offices throughout the US. While its staff number among the USDA's fewest, its budget is by far the largest.

Harry Chapin

Harry Forster Chapin (December 7, 1942 – July 16, 1981) was an American singer-songwriter, humanitarian, and producer best known for his folk rock and pop rock songs, who achieved worldwide success in the 1970s and became one of the most popular artists and highest paid performers. Chapin is also one of the best charting musical artists in the United States. Chapin, a Grammy Award winning artist and Grammy Hall of Fame inductee, has sold over 16 million records worldwide and has been described as one of the most beloved performers in music history.Chapin recorded a total of 11 albums from 1972 until his death in 1981. All 14 singles that he released became hit singles on at least one national music chart.

As a dedicated humanitarian, Chapin fought to end world hunger; he was a key participant in the creation of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1977. Chapin is credited with being the most politically and socially active American performer of the 1970s. In 1987, Chapin was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian work.

Health in the United States

Health in the United States refers to the overall health of the population of the United States.


In politics, humanitarian aid, and social science, hunger is a condition in which a person, for a sustained period, is unable to eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs. So in the field of hunger relief, the term hunger is used in a sense that goes beyond the common desire for food that all humans experience.

Throughout history, portions of the world's population have often suffered sustained periods of hunger. In many cases, this resulted from food supply disruptions caused by war, plagues, or adverse weather. In the decades following World War II, technological progress and enhanced political cooperation suggested it might be possible to substantially reduce the number of people suffering from hunger. While progress was uneven, by 2015 the threat of extreme hunger subsided for many of the world's people. According to figures published by the FAO in 2018 however, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger has been increasing over the last three years. This is both as a percentage of the world's population, and in absolute terms, with about 821 million afflicted with hunger in 2017.

While most of the world's hungry people continue to live in Asia, much of the increase in hunger since 2015 occurred in Africa and South America. The FAO's 2017 report discussed three principal reasons for the recent increase in hunger: climate, conflict, and economic slowdowns. The 2018 report focused on extreme weather as a primary driver of the increase in hunger, finding that the increases were especially severe in countries where the agricultural systems were most sensitive to extreme variations in weather.

Many thousands of organisations are engaged in the field of hunger relief; operating at local, national, regional or international levels. Some of these organisations are dedicated to hunger relief, while others may work in a number of different fields. The organisations range from multilateral institutions, to national governments, to small local initiatives such as independent soup kitchens. Many participate in umbrella networks that connect together thousands of different hunger relief organisations. At the global level, much of the world's hunger relief efforts are coordinated by the UN, and geared towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal for "Zero hunger".

Jeff Bridges

Jeffrey Leon Bridges (born December 4, 1949) is an American actor, singer, and producer. He comes from a prominent acting family and appeared on the television series Sea Hunt (1958–60), with his father, Lloyd Bridges and brother, Beau Bridges. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Otis "Bad" Blake in the 2009 film Crazy Heart, and earned Academy Award nominations for his roles in The Last Picture Show (1971), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), Starman (1984), The Contender (2000), True Grit (2010), and Hell or High Water (2016). His other films include Tron (1982), Jagged Edge (1985), The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), The Fisher King (1991), Fearless (1993), The Big Lebowski (1998), Seabiscuit (2003), Iron Man (2008), Tron: Legacy (2010), and The Giver (2014).


Malnutrition is a condition that results from eating a diet in which one or more nutrients are either not enough or are too much such that the diet causes health problems. It may involve calories, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins or minerals. Not enough nutrients is called undernutrition or undernourishment while too much is called overnutrition. Malnutrition is often used to specifically refer to undernutrition where an individual is not getting enough calories, protein, or micronutrients. If undernutrition occurs during pregnancy, or before two years of age, it may result in permanent problems with physical and mental development. Extreme undernourishment, known as starvation, may have symptoms that include: a short height, thin body, very poor energy levels, and swollen legs and abdomen. People also often get infections and are frequently cold. The symptoms of micronutrient deficiencies depend on the micronutrient that is lacking.Undernourishment is most often due to not enough high-quality food being available to eat. This is often related to high food prices and poverty. A lack of breastfeeding may contribute, as may a number of infectious diseases such as: gastroenteritis, pneumonia, malaria, and measles, which increase nutrient requirements. There are two main types of undernutrition: protein-energy malnutrition and dietary deficiencies. Protein-energy malnutrition has two severe forms: marasmus (a lack of protein and calories) and kwashiorkor (a lack of just protein). Common micronutrient deficiencies include: a lack of iron, iodine, and vitamin A. During pregnancy, due to the body's increased need, deficiencies may become more common. In some developing countries, overnutrition in the form of obesity is beginning to present within the same communities as undernutrition. Other causes of malnutrition include anorexia nervosa and bariatric surgery.Efforts to improve nutrition are some of the most effective forms of development aid. Breastfeeding can reduce rates of malnutrition and death in children, and efforts to promote the practice increase the rates of breastfeeding. In young children, providing food (in addition to breastmilk) between six months and two years of age improves outcomes. There is also good evidence supporting the supplementation of a number of micronutrients to women during pregnancy and among young children in the developing world. To get food to people who need it most, both delivering food and providing money so people can buy food within local markets are effective. Simply feeding students at school is insufficient. Management of severe malnutrition within the person's home with ready-to-use therapeutic foods is possible much of the time. In those who have severe malnutrition complicated by other health problems, treatment in a hospital setting is recommended. This often involves managing low blood sugar and body temperature, addressing dehydration, and gradual feeding. Routine antibiotics are usually recommended due to the high risk of infection. Longer-term measures include: improving agricultural practices, reducing poverty, improving sanitation, and the empowerment of women.There were 821 million undernourished people in the world in 2017 (11% of the total population). This is a reduction of about 176 million people since 1990 when 23% were undernourished. In 2012 it was estimated that another billion people had a lack of vitamins and minerals. In 2015, protein-energy malnutrition was estimated to have resulted in 323,000 deaths—down from 510,000 deaths in 1990. Other nutritional deficiencies, which include iodine deficiency and iron deficiency anemia, result in another 83,000 deaths. In 2010, malnutrition was the cause of 1.4% of all disability adjusted life years. About a third of deaths in children are believed to be due to undernutrition, although the deaths are rarely labelled as such. In 2010, it was estimated to have contributed to about 1.5 million deaths in women and children, though some estimate the number may be greater than 3 million. An additional 165 million children were estimated to have stunted growth from malnutrition in 2013. Undernutrition is more common in developing countries. Certain groups have higher rates of undernutrition, including women—in particular while pregnant or breastfeeding—children under five years of age, and the elderly. In the elderly, undernutrition becomes more common due to physical, psychological, and social factors.

Obesity in the United States

Obesity in the United States is a major health issue, resulting in numerous diseases, specifically increased risk of certain types of cancer, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, as well as significant increase in early mortality and economic costs. While many industrialized countries have experienced similar increases, obesity rates in the United States are the highest in the world.An obese person in America incurs an average of $1,429 more in medical expenses annually. Approximately $147 billion is spent in added medical expenses per year within the United States. This number is suspected to increase approximately $1.24 billion per year until the year 2030.The United States had the highest rate of obesity within the OECD grouping of large trading economies. From 23% obesity in 1962, estimates have steadily increased. The following statistics comprise adults age 20 and over. The overweight percentages for the overall US population are higher reaching 39.4% in 1997, 44.5% in 2004, 56.6% in 2007, and 63.8% (adults) and 17% (children) in 2008. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported higher numbers once more, counting 65.7% of American adults as overweight, and 17% of American children, and according to the CDC, 63% of teenage girls become overweight by age 11. In 2013 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 57.6% of American citizens were overweight or obese. The organization estimates that 3/4 of the American population will likely be overweight or obese by 2020. 2014 figures from the CDC found that more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults age 20 and older and 17% of children and adolescents aged 2–19 years were obese. A second study from the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC showed that 39.6% of US adults age 20 and older were obese as of 2015-2016 (37.9% for men and 41.1% for women).Obesity has been cited as a contributing factor to approximately 100,000–400,000 deaths in the United States per year and has increased health care use and expenditures, costing society an estimated $117 billion in direct (preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to weight) and indirect (absenteeism, loss of future earnings due to premature death) costs. This exceeds health care costs associated with smoking and accounts for 6% to 12% of national health care expenditures in the United States.


Poverty is the scarcity or the lack of a certain (variant) amount of material possessions or money. Poverty is a multifaceted concept, which may include social, economic, and political elements. Absolute poverty, extreme poverty, or destitution refers to the complete lack of the means necessary to meet basic personal needs such as food, clothing and shelter.The threshold at which absolute poverty is defined is considered to be about the same, independent of the person's permanent location or era. On the other hand, relative poverty occurs when a person who lives in a given country does not enjoy a certain minimum level of "living standards" as compared to the rest of the population of that country. Therefore, the threshold at which relative poverty is defined varies from country to another, or from one society to another.Providing basic needs can be restricted by constraints on government's ability to deliver services, such as corruption, tax avoidance, debt and loan conditionalities and by the brain drain of health care and educational professionals. Strategies of increasing income to make basic needs more affordable typically include welfare, economic freedoms and providing financial services.Poverty reduction is still a major issue (or a target) for many international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, United States Agency for International Development, Oxfam, CARE, World Vision International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Red Cross among a plethora of others.

Poverty in the United States

Poverty is a state of deprivation, lacking the usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. The most common measure of poverty in the U.S. is the "poverty threshold" set by the U.S. government. This measure recognizes poverty as a lack of those goods and services commonly taken for granted by members of mainstream society. The official threshold is adjusted for inflation using the consumer price index.

Most people in the United States will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75. Poverty rates are persistently higher in rural and inner city parts of the country as compared to suburban areas.Estimates of the number of people in the United States living in poverty are nuanced. One organization estimated that in 2015, 13.5% of Americans (43.1 million) lived in poverty. Yet other scholars underscore the number of people in the United States living in "near-poverty," putting the number at around 100 million, or nearly a third of the U.S. population. Starting in the 1930s, relative poverty rates have consistently exceeded those of other wealthy nations. The lowest poverty rates are found in New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota and Nebraska, which have between 8.7% and 9.1% of their population living in poverty.In 2009, the number of people who were in poverty was approaching 1960s levels that led to the national War on Poverty. In 2011 extreme poverty in the United States, meaning households living on less than $2 per day before government benefits, was double 1996 levels at 1.5 million households, including 2.8 million children. In 2012, the percentage of seniors living in poverty was 14% while 18% of children were. The addition of Social Security benefits contributed more to reduce poverty than any other factor.Recent census data shows that half the population qualifies as poor or low income, with one in five Millennials living in poverty. Academic contributors to The Routledge Handbook of Poverty in the United States postulate that new and extreme forms of poverty have emerged in the U.S. as a result of neoliberal structural adjustment policies and globalization, which have rendered economically marginalized communities as destitute "surplus populations" in need of control and punishment.In 2011, child poverty reached record high levels, with 16.7 million children living in food insecure households, about 35% more than 2007 levels. A 2013 UNICEF report ranked the U.S. as having the second highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world. According to a 2016 study by the Urban Institute, teenagers in low income communities are often forced to join gangs, save school lunches, sell drugs or exchange sexual favors because they cannot afford food.There were about 643,000 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people nationwide in January 2009. Almost two-thirds stayed in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program and the other third were living on the street, in an abandoned building, or another place not meant for human habitation. About 1.56 million people, or about 0.5% of the U.S. population, used an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009. Around 44% of homeless people are employed. As of 2018, the number of U.S. citizens living in their vehicles because they cannot find affordable housing is on the rise, particularly in cities with steep increases in the cost of living such as Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon and San Francisco.In June 2016, the IMF warned the United States that its high poverty rate needs to be tackled urgently by raising the minimum wage and offering paid maternity leave to women to encourage them to enter the labor force. In December 2017, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, undertook a two-week investigation on the effects of systemic poverty in the United States, and sharply condemned "private wealth and public squalor", declaring the state of Alabama to have the "worst poverty in the developed world". Alston's report was issued in May 2018 and highlights that 40 million people live in poverty and over five million live "in ‘Third World’ conditions."

Share Our Strength

Share Our Strength is a national organization working to end childhood hunger in the United States. Share Our Strength holds culinary events, solicits individual donations, and uses social media to raise funds, which are then used to fund long-term solutions to the hunger problem. Through corporate sponsorships, funds that Share Our Strength raises are then significantly magnified. No Kid Hungry is a national campaign run by Share Our Strength.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly and commonly known as the Food Stamp Program, provides food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people living in the United States. It is a federal aid program, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, under the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), though benefits are distributed by each U.S. state's Division of Social Services or Children and Family Services.

SNAP benefits supplied roughly 40 million Americans in 2018. Approximately 9.2% of American households obtained SNAP benefits at some point during 2017, with approximately 16.7% of all children living in households with SNAP benefits. Beneficiaries and costs increased sharply with the Great Recession, peaked in 2013 and have declined through 2017 as the economy recovered. It is the largest nutrition program of the 15 administered by FNS and is a key component of the social safety net for low-income Americans.The amount of SNAP benefits received by a household depends on the household's size, income, and expenses. For most of its history, the program used paper-denominated "stamps" or coupons – worth $1 (brown), $5 (blue), and $10 (green) – bound into booklets of various denominations, to be torn out individually and used in single-use exchange. Because of their 1:1 value ratio with actual currency, the coupons were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Their rectangular shape resembled a U.S. dollar bill (although about one-half the size), including intaglio printing on high-quality paper with watermarks. In the late 1990s, the Food Stamp Program was revamped, with some states phasing out actual stamps in favor of a specialized debit card system known as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), provided by private contractors. EBT has been implemented in all states since June 2004. Each month, SNAP benefits are directly deposited into the household's EBT card account. Households may use EBT to pay for food at supermarkets, convenience stores, and other food retailers, including certain farmers' markets.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Sylvia Mary Mathews Burwell (born June 23, 1965) is an American government and non-profit executive, who is the 15th president of American University since June 1, 2017. She is the first woman to serve as the university's president. She earlier served as the 22nd United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. President Barack Obama nominated Burwell on April 11, 2014. Burwell's nomination was confirmed by the Senate on June 5, 2014, by a vote of 78–17. She served as Secretary until the end of the Obama administration. Previously, she had been the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2013 to 2014.

A West Virginia native, Burwell first worked for the United States government in Washington, D.C., during the presidency of Bill Clinton. She helped form the National Economic Council in 1993. She later served as Chief of Staff to Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, Deputy White House Chief of Staff to Erskine Bowles, and finally Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Between her times in government, Burwell served as president of Walmart's charitable foundation focused on ending hunger, beginning in January 2012. She was earlier the president of the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where her program focused on combating world poverty through agricultural development, financial services for the poor, and global libraries. She was Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director before its reorganization in 2006. She had joined the Gates Foundation in 2001, at the end of the Clinton Presidency.

Tyson Foods

Tyson Foods, Inc. is an American multinational corporation based in Springdale, Arkansas, that operates in the food industry. The company is the world's second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork after JBS S.A. and annually exports the largest percentage of beef out of the United States. Together with its subsidiaries, it operates major food brands, including Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, Ball Park, Wright Brand, Aidells, and State Fair. Tyson Foods ranked No. 80 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.

United States Department of Agriculture

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), also known as the Agriculture Department, is the U.S. federal executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming, forestry, and food. It aims to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, promote agricultural trade and production, work to assure food safety, protect natural resources, foster rural communities and end hunger in the United States and internationally.

Approximately 80% of the USDA's $141 billion budget goes to the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) program. The largest component of the FNS budget is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp program), which is the cornerstone of USDA's nutrition assistance.The current Secretary of Agriculture is Sonny Perdue.

We Are the World

"We Are the World" is a charity single originally recorded by the supergroup United Support of Artists (USA) for Africa in 1985. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World. With sales in excess of 20 million copies, it is one of fewer than 30 retail singles to have sold at least 10 million copies worldwide.

Following Band Aid's 1984 "Do They Know It's Christmas?" project in the United Kingdom, an idea for the creation of an American benefit single for African famine relief came from activist Harry Belafonte, who, along with fundraiser Ken Kragen, was instrumental in bringing the vision to reality. Several musicians were contacted by the pair, before Jackson and Richie were assigned the task of writing the song. The duo completed the writing of "We Are the World" seven weeks after the release of "Do They Know It's Christmas?", and one night before the song's first recording session, on January 21, 1985. The historic event brought together some of the most famous artists in the music industry at the time.

The song was released on March 7, 1985, as the first single from the album. A worldwide commercial success, it topped music charts throughout the world and became the fastest-selling American pop single in history. The first ever single to be certified multi-platinum, "We Are the World" received a Quadruple Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Awarded numerous honors—including three Grammy Awards, one American Music Award, and a People's Choice Award—the song was promoted with a critically received music video, a home video, a special edition magazine, a simulcast, and several books, posters, and shirts. The promotion and merchandise aided the success of "We Are the World" and raised over $63 million (equivalent to $144 million today) for humanitarian aid in Africa and the US.

Following the devastation caused by the magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, a remake of the song by another all-star cast of singers was recorded on February 1, 2010. Entitled "We Are the World 25 for Haiti", it was released as a single on February 12, 2010, and proceeds from the record aided survivors in the impoverished country.

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