Yesterday, the blogosphere buzzed with this sign of the times story.
Some 691,000 children went hungry in America sometime in 2007, while close to one in eight Americans struggled to feed themselves adequately even before this year’s sharp economic downtown, the Agriculture Department reported Monday.
The department’s annual report on food security showed that during 2007 the number of children who suffered a substantial disruption in the amount of food they typically eat was more than 50 percent above the 430,000 in 2006 and the largest figure since 716,000 in 1998.
Overall, the 36.2 million adults and children who struggled with hunger during the year was up slightly from 35.5 million in 2006. That was 12.2 percent of Americans who didn’t have the money or assistance to get enough food to maintain active, healthy lives.
Almost a third of those, 11.9 million adults and children, went hungry at some point. That figure has grown by more than 40 percent since 2000. The government says these people suffered a substantial disruption in their food supply at some point and classifies them as having “very low food security.” Until the government rewrote its definitions two years ago, this group was described as having “food insecurity with hunger.”
The Bush administration’s response to hunger in America is to rewrite the definition. That, my dahhhhhlinks, is the banality of evil inhabiting a pin-striped suit. But wait, there’s more.
“There’s every reason to think the increases in the number of hungry people will be very, very large based on the increased demand we’re seeing this year at food stamp agencies, emergency kitchens, Women, Infants and Children clinics, really across the entire social service support structure,” said James Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group.
Weill said the figures show that economic growth during the first seven years of the Bush administration didn’t reach the poorest and hungriest people. “The people in the deepest poverty are suffering the most,” Weill said.
Before the internet, our neighbors starved quietly when the food bank ran out of supplies, but now we talk about what people don’t have and can’t get. The comments thread for this post is enlightening, as more and more net-connected people say the same thing: they’re broke, they can’t feed their kids, and they don’t know what to do.
I don’t have any answers to these questions, but I believe that we cannot postpone asking them anymore. Starving children do not routinely become well-adjusted adults in wealthy, indifferent America, and parents who cannot feed their children harden their hearts to pleas for patience. This isn’t going to go away. We have to do something about it now.