Wednesday, December 07, 2005

When were you hungry last and had no food?

Yesterday I went out to the North Texas Food Bank for a meeting. Jan Pruitt serves as Executive Director and is doing an amazing job in organizing food relief and education enterprises for the entire Dallas area out of her shop.

I noticed two things as I was waiting for my meeting to begin.

First, the tally so far in the last quarter of 2005 of pounds of food products distributed through their network of organizations (CDM is one of them) stands at almost 6,000,000!

Second, a phrase in their mission statement stood out to me: "eliminate hunger." Most folks or organizations don't think in those "end game" sorts of ways when it comes to hunger. But then, that is Jan and that is NTFB!

Earlier in the day a report crossed my desk from the Center on Hunger and Poverty (, a division of the Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

As I read over the bulletin, I thought how much work there is to do in this country when it comes to chronic poverty, hunger and the related issues.

Consider the following facts:

  • The U. S. Department of Agriculture reported recently (in Household Food Security in the United States, 2004) that between 1999 and 2004 the number of American households experiencing hunger rose by 43%.
  • 38.2 million Americans live in households that suffer directly from hunger and food insecurity (i. e. cutting back on food requirements due to inadequate income).
  • Nearly 14,000,000 children are among this group.
  • Households with children have double the rate of food insecurity as compared to those without children.
  • Over 47% of all food-insecure households have incomes above 130% of poverty, which in most cases makes them ineligible for food stamps.
  • In 2004, the average food-secure household spent 33% more for food than the typical household of the same size and composition that experienced hunger.
  • In the month prior to the 2004 survey, 55.2% of all food-insecure households received help from one or more of the three largest federal food assistance programs: food stamps, free or reduced-price lunches or the WIC program.
  • 20% of food-insecure families received emergency food from a food pantry, church or food bank during the 12 months prior to the survey.
  • 34.9% of food pantry users did not participate in any of the three largest federal food assistance programs.
  • Texas leads the nation in the prevalence of food insecurity.
  • Coverage of food-insecure households by the three largest federal food assistance programs continues to be low.

Dr. J. Larry Brown, leading student of domestic hunger, observed in the report, "This chronic level of hunger so long after the recession ended means that it is a man-made problem. Congress and the White House urgently need to address growing income inequality and the weakening of the safety net in order to get this epidemic under control."

And now, legislation sits in the U. S. House of Representatives to further cut back on funding for food assistance programs.

Got to pay for that big tax cut for all those needy folks at the top!


Stephen Jones said...

Larry - long time, second time (see yesterday) -

Thanks again for your thoughts and focus this morning. I have been able to spend some time volunteering at the Haight Ashbury Food Program in San Francisco. Their mission statement is one that has always gripped and challenged me:

"HAFP's mission is to support the principle that freedom from hunger is a right, not a privilege."


Larry James said...

Thanks, Stephen. You are right on!

Jeremy Gregg said...

I'd like to offer a follow-up to HAFP's bold mission statement:

"Freeing the poor from hunger is society's obligation, not its option."

10% of the nation's poor live in Texas. That's right - 1 out of every 10 people living in Poverty is a Texan.

Anyone care to guess how many of those ten are children?

The answer is here.