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Putting Our Money Where the Mouths Are

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Great Recession is being felt in America’s stomachs, the government reports.

Nearly one in seven American households had trouble putting enough food on the table at some point in 2008, according to the annual report on food (in)security by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): Household Food Security in the United States, 2008.

That’s 17 million households, 14.6% of the total.  It’s also an increase of 31% from the year before, the highest rate recorded since the USDA started tracking these statistics in 1995.  And in these 17 million households are 16.7 million children, meaning almost 1 in 4 American kids might not be getting enough to eat.

At the time they were surveyed, a little more than half of these food-insecure households -- 55% -- had been helped by a federal food assistance program in the previous month.  Reauthorization of two of the biggest of these programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), is coming up in Congress next year.  We at EWG see a real opportunity to expand these programs and help achieve President Obama’s goal of eliminating childhood hunger by 2015.

Hopefully, the US will do better than the United Nations.  The U.N. Food Summit opened yesterday in Rome on a low note.  Despite repeated calls for a solution to the problem of the world’s one billion hungry people, the group of world leaders represented at the summit rejected a proposal to commit $44 billion a year to help poor farmers.  The Group of Eight (G-8) leaders did pledge $20 billion for food security and agricultural development to developing nations last summer, but this funding is yet to materialize.

As EWG President Ken Cook puts it, “In the most literal sense, the developed world isn't putting its money where the planet's mouth is.”

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