The Hunger Awareness Season

“Obesity: The New Hunger,” by Robert Paarlberg. The Wall Street Journal, 5/11/2016.

hungerAh, springtime! When publicity about hunger in America blooms as surely as dandelions. There are marches, and walks, and T-shirts, and TV ads showing sad-eyed toddlers. They claim 1 in 7 Americans do not get enough to eat, although those who are marching appear to be getting their share. But the marchers are the administrators whose jobs rely on these programs, not those actually going hungry. Turns out, the poor are actually getting fat. Of all Americans, 38% are obese, compared to 42% of Hispanics and 48% of blacks. Going hungry is obviously not a problem in America, not even for minorities.

This is becoming obvious even to federal administrators.  They talk now about “food insecurity” instead of hunger. Every year, the Federal Department of Agriculture surveys a sample of households asking 10 questions, such as if they at any time in the past 12 months failed to eat or worried about running out of food. Three “yes” answers classifies them as “food insecure,” but not necessarily hungry.  Based on this survey, 14% of households are designated as “food insecure,” suggesting that having sufficient  food is a constant concern, but even of this group, less than 1% are “food insecure” on any given day.

I, too, would probably rank as food insecure because at least once during a year I forget to go to Costco.

Obesity, not malnutrition, is now the problem. As far back as 1995, an Agriculture Department report showed that the average intake of vitamins, minerals, and protein was similar for poor and non-poor children and was considerably more than the recommended daily allowance. There is no sign of racial discrepancy, either. Only 0.5% of blacks were found to be deficient in Vitamin A compared with 0.3% of whites.

Shortly after high school, I hitch-hiked to Kansas City to visit Dave Hall.  Most days I joined him on his summer job driving a Good Humor truck.  He had a prime route through a minority section of the city, and the peak time was near noon when an ice cream bar was lunch for many of the children.  A second peak was mid-afternoon when the first sugar rush wore off.  My job was to ring the bell while he drove.

The food stamp program, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allows food stamps to be used for cookies, candy, and soda. This not only supports industries who contribute to political campaigns, it is the only practical procedure. If food stamps were restricted strictly for nutritional items, they would free up money that could be then used for junk, so they might as well be used for any food.

All of this is an excellent example of how government programs develop a life of their own. Concerns of administrators about their own job security will always trump concerns about the effects of the programs themselves, I kid you not.

So the next time you hear someone working on relieving hunger in America, suggest they work on obesity instead.  That is the bigger problem, no pun intended.



About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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