Driven by structural racism, poverty, and political neglect, America is facing an ever-growing crisis of hunger and malnourishment.
Rabat – Hunger in the United States of America is approaching levels not seen since the Great Depression, with 54 million currently facing food insecurity.
An August 28 briefing by Ethnic Media Services revealed the shocking extent of US hunger.
A mounting crisis requires urgent attention, according to the organizers of the online briefing, “Hunger in America nears levels of Great Depression, what can be done?” The event brought together David Beckmann, Ami McReynolds and Jovanna Lopez, three experts who are engaged in combating the growing crisis.
The richest country on earth is facing an unprecedented challenge. One in six families with children are not getting the food they need. Parents often starve themselves to feed their children. In any given week, 14 million children are not eating enough.
Yet politicians “don’t give a damn,” according to Beckman, president of Christian NGO Bread for the World.
The crisis is driven by poverty, racism, political neglect, and the absence of affordable, healthy food, according to a Feeding America economic model the briefing cited.
Endemic poverty has grown alongside inequality in the USA. Ami McReynolds, co-founder of the People’s Nite Market in San Antonio, spoke about how the cost of living increases while wages fail to keep up. The number of hungry citizens in America is set to rise to 54 million, with 18 million children in urgent need of healthy food. With unemployment numbers at 11%, many households do not have enough savings to scrape together even $400 for an emergency.
While food is readily available in the US, healthy food is often too expensive to afford.
In America, many parents work more than one full-time job. Yet, the system allows families to get caught in a cycle where wages cannot feed their family for the entire month.
During the briefing, Beckmann, McReynolds and Lopez revealed the continuous cycle of poverty and hunger that many face.
After parents receive their wages the family can eat for a week or two until money starts to run out. The family then resorts to instant noodles or cheap junk food until the money depletes completely. Often, parents start reducing their own meals or starve themselves in the last week of the month. Children often cannot eat in the last few days of the month before the family receives their salaries and the cycle restarts.
Hunger in America is worsened by the presence of structural racism. Black and Indigenous Americans are more than twice as likely to go hungry compared to their white counterparts. American minorities receive worse education, face higher unemployment, and have fewer retirement funds. These factors add to the racial pay gap and a lack of affordable homes, creating a spiraling crisis of misery.
A 2019 study by the US government had already revealed the mounting crisis.
“12.3% or 15.6 million households in the United States were food insecure at least some time during the last year,” the study showed. Black and Hispanic households had it the worst.
White households hold an average of 13 times the wealth of Black households and 10 times as much as Hispanic households.
Restaurants litter the US, yet people are finding it increasingly difficult to find healthy and affordable food. While fast food is readily available, good quality fresh fruit and vegetables are often only sold at expensive supermarkets.
Food activist Jovanna Lopez revealed how local markets often have poor quality, rotten food, while higher quality food at farmers markets is too expensive. Growing food is often not an option. Buying a small plot of land to farm for one family costs up to $20,000, said Lopez, chief equity and programs officer at Feeding America.
Small local solutions have emerged to try to help hungry Americans. However, these are not sustainable solutions for a growing problem of structural poverty and hunger.
Americans often rely on cheap fast food to feed their families as fresh produce is simply not available in their area. These “food deserts” cause extremely poor nutritional diets where families eat highly processed food with high levels of sugars and fats.
American politics have paid little attention to the topic of hunger in America. In 2020, an election year, neither party has brought up the topic at all.
Republicans continue to try to cut social safety programs while Democrats discount the 54 million hungry as structural non-voters, according to Beckman. The sitting president and his challenger have both remained eerily quiet on the tragic and growing crisis.
Most often, people in need of healthy produce must go to local food banks or religious charities. Food banks have seen a 60% increase in demand during the pandemic. Many of these food banks already struggled to support America’s hungry before the COVID-19 epidemic spread. People who used to donate to food banks are now showing up to ask for food assistance.
The little support the government provides is desperately needed. Food support programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provide nine meals for each meal distributed by a food bank, who do not have the capacity to provide a sustainable solution.
American politicians have for years attempted to cut the program, but the COVID-19 epidemic means the government has “paused” plans to take away these food stamps from millions of people.
Hunger in America is spiraling out of control. While many parents work multiple jobs just to pay the rent, they are forced to starve themselves and their children. In a country where Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos owns $200 billion, many children go to bed hungry. Policy could resolve these issues by appropriately taxing the ultra-wealthy and big businesses, but that is something neither political party is willing to discuss.