In 2008, nearly 17 million children, or 22.5 percent, lived in households in which food at times was scarce — 4 million children more than the year before. And the number of youngsters who sometimes were outright hungry rose from nearly 700,000 to almost 1.1 million. Among Americans of all ages, more than 16 percent — or 49 million people — sometimes ran short of nutritious food, compared with about 12 percent the year before. The deterioration in access to food during 2008 among both children and adults far eclipses that of any other single year in the report’s history.
President Obama characterized the data as “unsettling,” and reiterated his campaign pledge to end child hunger by 2015. “These numbers are a wake-up call…for us to get very serious about food security and hunger, about nutrition and food safety in this country,” added Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
These numbers will only get worse in the short-term, as 2009′s increase in unemployment will negatively impact the food situation of even more families. This is just one more reason that any jobs package that Congress puts together should include further aid to states, so that they don’t cut back on services providing food to the hungry, or lay off even more people that will have to join lines at the soup kitchen.
But, since Obama is remaining committed to his 2015 goal, this could also be a time to look at poverty-fighting measures more widely. The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing today on reauthorization of U.S. Child Nutrition Programs, which is one more opportunity to combat hunger, if dollars are put in the right places. As Vilsack told the committee “this legislation is an opportunity to in one stroke confront both the challenges of obesity and hunger – with the prospect of better health and well-being in the years to come. Investing in meal quality and access to these critical programs will help support the capacity of our young people to learn and acquire the tools necessary to become the leaders of tomorrow.”