It has been 19 days that I have been mimicking the diet of the world’s hungry. I have so little to report today. I worked. All day. The end. That’s about as much as I can deliver. Okay, not really. Today I will discuss hunger in America and I will present my interview with Aleta Dunne, of the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC)
With this new focus on the United States, I’m reminded of something a friend’s son told me recently. When he was going to school in Berkeley, he was living on next to nothing. He shared with me that he would make regular trips to a dumpster outside of a bakery. The bakery threw away full dumpsters of day-old breads and pastries. Apparently there were regulars who would convene daily to eat their breakfasts there. On the one hand, I suppose it’s a good thing that people come and eat the food. On the other…well…doesn’t something seem off about that? If people are going to eat the food, why does it get thrown away? Couldn’t there be some way for food places to distribute their day-old goods?
While I’ve never been dumpster diving, this is fairly reminiscent of when I was in college. I was living on next to nothing, even with three jobs. Granted, the one job wasn’t for any fundamental survival needs. It was at a travel agency and strictly existed for me to afford spring break. My roommate and I would canvas other students and sell enough trips to get our vacation for free plus bennies including food and spending money.
One of the other jobs was at a catering company, and there I ate well one-two days a week depending on when we had events. And the other job was the midnight to 8:00 am shift at Kinko’s. There I was able to use the computers and printers to create some bang-up presentations for classes. In those days, Kinko’s used a lot of neon lights – maybe they still do? Partiers would stop by at 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning. They would look at the marquee above the counter with all those bright lights and order pizza. Not a Friday or Saturday night (that I was working) went by that I wasn’t shooing a group of dazed and inebriated students out the door directing them to the Pizza Hut around the corner. Food and college. The two go hand-in-hand, right? I had days on end in which I was eating Ramen noodles and dry oatmeal. We could get six packets of Ramen noodles for a quarter.
I had a brief interlude with panhandling (that was really more of a social experiment) and I even resorted to selling my plasma for a brief time. That is until my mother found out, upon which time those behaviors were put to a complete stop and my father promptly began sending me packages of dried venison (I ate meat back then). But my point is that people will do what they can to eat. It’s a fundamental human need – physical, emotional, spiritual, cultural.
During these past two plus weeks I heard stories of mothers who would forgo their meals so their children could eat. Of families who have to ration their food in order to assure they could eat tomorrow or the next day. Children who would have to skip a day or two, or three, because the food simply didn’t exist. Farmers committing suicide because of failed crop-related debt. While I haven’t been to a restaurant for about a month, I have images of people gorging themselves on portions that could feed an entire hungry family. The disparity between my reality is shocking in comparison to the realities of those 1.02 billion hungry people. And I lead a fairly simple life sans glamour and extravagance.
Food, or rather the lack of it, can drive people to engage in desperate behaviors; behaviors that we who live in the luxury of regular paychecks may never understand.
This brings me to dinner tonight. Day 19. Two to go and I am waiting in eager anticipation for Day 21. Very eager. I look forward to getting more than five hours of sleep too. I’m also eager to go back to the olden days when my husband cooked, and I was the content, well-fed, cleanup crew. I think he’s also looking forward to that.
I realize that now I’m focusing on hunger in the U.S. my diet should change accordingly. But that’s not going to happen for two reasons: 1) We still have plenty of food leftover from my virtual Asian journey and 2) If I were to eat a diet similar to those Americans who are living in poverty, I would most likely be eating some very unhealthy foods – processed – sugary – animal products. Foods lacking in nutrients. Fast food. Junk food. I won’t do it.
Tonight’s dinner was leftovers from the days when I was eating the diet of the hungry in Asia. It was a concoction of leftover lentils and rice along with potato, some asparagus, broccoli and bok choy mixed together in coconut sauce with Mae Ploy. Bok choy is amazing stuff – loaded with vitamins and minerals. I know I’ve said this before, but there’s something to those green veggies…they glisten with health. We decided this is a meal is worthy of incorporating into our future non-World Hunger Diet daily lives.
Today’s Nutritional Intake – weighing in at 112.5. I expect to land about 111.5 on the morning of Day 22 – just before we go out to have breakfast…! Tofu veggie scramble and hash browns here I come!
|Chai Tea||12 oz||192||4.25||30.5||0.75||0.75||65||25.5||0|
|Coconut Milk||1/3 Cup+||175||17||4||0||1.3||25||1.3|
|Brown Jasmine Rice||1/4 Cup Dry||170||1.5||35||2||4||0||0||0|
|Lentils||1/4 cup cooked||56.5||0.25||9.75||4||4.5||118||1||183|
|Broccoli||1 cup cooked||34.5||0||6.75||2.25||3.4||32.25||2.25||315|
|Bok Choy||1/2 cup||4.5||0||1||0.35||0.5||0||0.4||88|
Hunger in the United States
The fact that I am a citizen in the world’s wealthiest country and upwards of 49 million people in the United States are going hungry is very telling of the depth of this problem.
According to the National Anti-Hunger Organization’s (NAHO) Roadmap to End Hunger in America by 2015: There are 16.7 million children who did not have enough food to eat in 2008. That’s 25 percent of the U.S. total. Let me repeat. One quarter – 25 percent – of the U.S. children are at risk, are hungry. Some of these at-risk children and their families do not necessarily fit the profile that you and I may have of someone living with hunger.
- Over half—55.1 percent—of those reporting incomes live in households with limited incomes but above the poverty line.
- Nearly half—48.6 percent—live in families headed by a married couple.
- Nearly one in six—16.3 percent—live outside major metropolitan areas.
These 16.7 million children live in households that lack the resources to provide the nutritious foods children need to thrive. These children can be found all across America. Perhaps even in your neighborhood.
Out of those 16.7 million children, more than 3.5 million of which are under the age of five (which accounts for 17 percent of all U.S. children in that age group), face hunger or malnutrition, according to the report Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2005 – 2007 by the food relief organization Feeding America.
Feeding America shows a state-by-state breakdown of the food insecure children under the age of 18 ranging from North Dakota at 10.9 percent to Texas at 22.1 percent.
Feeding America also shows a state-by-state breakdown of the food insecure children under the age of five ranging from Massachusetts at 6.7 percent to Louisiana at 24.2 percent.
Community Food Security Coalition is Working to End Hunger
The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) is a North American organization dedicated to building strong, sustainable, local and regional food systems that ensure access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food for all people at all times. CFSC seeks to develop self-reliance among all communities in obtaining their food and to create a system of growing, manufacturing, processing, making available and selling food that is regionally based and grounded in the principles of justice, democracy, and sustainability.
According to Aleta Dunne of CFSC, this non-profit is comprised of a group of like-minded organizations (approximately 300) that are aligned to help solve the U.S. hunger issues through a systemic approach.
I asked Dunne to please explain the phrase culturally appropriate (as shown in two paragraphs above):
Each community should be able to choose their own standards for appropriate food. Some communities might want to grow foods that were historically grown in the region, while another might feel that only organically grown foods meet their standards for quality. At the crux of this issue is control over our own food supply. Food aid can help address immediate hunger needs, but it often limits control over what we eat.
Dunne added: In line with our goals of sustainability: We recognize that our long-term ability to produce our own food cannot be sustained without nurturing the land. Among other activities, we engage in policy advocacy to support legislation that encourages farmers to use sustainable farming practices.
We need to find solutions to hunger that aren’t just band-aids. Part of our approach is to recognize that hunger is a result of poverty, so to address hunger we must address poverty. This is why we support food systems with business models that create jobs for community members, and work to make sure that farming is a viable career option. We also support a model of agriculture in which the farmers are part of the community and work with the community to provide food the community wants and needs.
I asked Dunne what message could you offer the readers – something that would be valuable for them to know.
Everyone deserves food – not just any food, but good food (as defined by their own standards). I believe that everyone can have it if we support community-based food systems. Get to know your local farmer, grow some vegetables, and become a part of your food system.
CFSC’s Release Statement on the 2008 Household Food Security in the United States Report:
On Monday, November 16, 2009, the USDA released its annual Household Food Security in the United States Report based on findings from the Economic Research Service (ERS). Sadly, the 2008 report shows the highest levels of domestic food insecurity in the United States since USDA began tracking these national statistics in 1995. The report shows that 17 million (14.6 percent) U.S. households were food insecure in 2008, an increase from 13 million (11.1 percent) households in 2007. At a Senate Agriculture Committee Hearing on Child Nutrition Re-authorization on Tuesday, November 17th, USDA Secretary Vilsack stated that this was the largest increase in any one-year period in the history of this report.
17 million households “did not have access by all people at all times to enough food.” According to USDA, over 49 million people lived in these households, thus 49 million people went without access to sufficient food during 2008. The report also noted that more than one in five children went without enough food during 2008. And, as expected, rates of food insecurity were highest in households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line, with children headed by a single adult, and that are Black or Hispanic. Additionally, households in large cities and rural areas were more commonly food insecure than in suburban and outlying city areas.
These numbers are expected to worsen given the current economic situation that has resulted in lost jobs and reduction in pay for millions of Americans. CFSC’s release statement continues with a quote from Jim Weill, Food Research and Action Center president. As the recession hit, the number of Americans in households struggling against hunger skyrocketed to one in six last year, and it’s likely that the number is even higher today.
You can check out CFSC’s factsheet based on the USDA’s 2008 report to learn more.
Something that might be of interest: Food insecure households varied regionally and were most prevalent in the South, intermediately in the Midwest and West, and least in the Northeast.
Check out the USDA’s audio slide show on food security.
The CFSC and the nation’s leading anti-hunger organizations, working together as the National Anti-Hunger Organizations (NAHO), have released the Roadmap to End Hunger in America by 2015, which outlines the steps needed to fight hunger in this country. In the Roadmap, NAHO argues that solving hunger will require a commitment from all sectors of society — government, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals — and specifies the actions needed from each sector.
Founded in 1975, WhyHunger is a leader in the fight against hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. WHY is convinced that solutions to hunger and poverty can be found at the grassroots level. WHY advances long-term solutions to hunger and poverty by supporting community-based organizations that empower individuals and build self-reliance.
WhyHunger created a public service campaign to raise awareness about hunger in the U.S. and to educate the general public about the growing cost of food. Many Americans are struggling with hunger, and they are turning to organizations like WhyHunger for help. On the same token, many Americans living in poverty may be unaware of, or too proud, to tap into these long term solutions-based organizations. Help spread the word to help those in need.
President Obama has pledged to end child hunger in America by 2015 according to Feed the Children. The Obama Administration will be asking for $1 billion in additional annual spending for child nutrition programs next year, when the programs are reauthorized. Secretary Vilsack said, “[We’re] making a historic investment in improving our child nutrition programs and we look forward to our continued work with Congress to continue strengthening USDA programs that impact the health and nutrition of our children.”
Research shows that hungry children cannot concentrate and can often have behavior problems in school. These programs make sure that millions of children in America have access to meals at home, school, and after school.
Okay, I have to admit, I have some issues with this guy, Secretary Vilsack. As a former Iowa governor, he advocated genetic engineering, Monsanto and factory farming. You can learn more at Organic Consumers Association. I worry that Vilsack will want to incorporate genetically modified foods into this child nutrition program – which raises a whole different set of concerns. If we are going to be spending 1 billion dollars for child nutrition, I, personally, do not want any of that money to benefit agrochemical companies. It’s time we take a stand for the children of the United States. They deserve a solid education, three nutritious meals a day, health care, and the security that adults are looking out for their best interests. Let’s guide them well, so they evolve into a bright future.
We will have an unchallenged, open, panoramic opportunity on a global scale to demonstrate the finest aspects of what we know in this country: peace, freedom, democracy, human rights, benevolent sharing, love, the easing of human suffering. Is that going to be our list of priorities or not?
~ Jimmy Carter
The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied…but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.
To support the organizations I write about in the series, purchase a World Hunger: Be the Solution Tee. Proceeds from the shirt will go to the Small Planet Institute Fund and the International Fund for Africa. All tees are sweat free and available in organic cotton. To see the selection of World Hunger tees at Conducive’s Humanitarian & Human Rights Tee store, click here
To follow this series from the beginning, you can click the links below:
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 1
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 2
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 3
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 4
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 5
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 6
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 7
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 8
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 9
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 10
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 11
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 13
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 14
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 15
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 16
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 17
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 18
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 20
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 21
Solutions for World Hunger: Part I
Solutions for World Hunger: Part II
Solutions for World Hunger: Part III