Hunger Grows in America and Around the World: Do Government Leaders Care?

Food First | 12.01.2009

Two alarming documents on hunger and the food crisis were released in November. The USDA reports an alarming increase in food insecurity—fully one in seven Americans do not get enough food throughout the year. And a declaration from the World Summit on Food Security in Rome notes that the world is now hungrier than ever before. The parallels between global and national hunger are staggering.

The increases in food insecurity in the U.S. and abroad have tracked one another almost perfectly. Last year the number of hungry people worldwide increased by 15%, to over 1 billion while U.S. food insecurity increased by 13% with nearly 50 million people without enough food.

The USDA tried to put a positive spin on these disturbing statistics by claiming that “85% of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2008, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.” The question then is, why, in the most productive farming country in the world, do we have so many hungry people? And more importantly, what will our government do about it?

Last year the number of hungry people worldwide increased by 15%, to over 1 billion while U.S. food insecurity increased by 13% with nearly 50 million people without enough food.

The USDA Report refers to household food shortages, yet there is no shortage of food in the U.S. Families simply come up short when trying to buy food. This disparity is true globally as well, with world production of 1 1/2 times the food needed for every man, woman and child on the planet. There simply is no shortage. In fact the U.S.-global food crisis comes at a time of record global grain harvests coupled with record profits for the world’s global agri-foods corporations with farm suppliers to retailers, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Monsanto, General Food, Wal-Mart all posting windfall profit increases in 2008 of 20 to 86%. For Mosaic, a fertilizer subsidiary of Cargill, profits increased by 1200%.

Many working families in the U.S. are food insecure. Our nation’s food workers, who make up 18% of all U.S. workers, suffer the most egregious food insecurity. Those who pick, process, pack and serve up our food are the lowest-paid workers of any industry and are forced to eat calorie dense, unhealthy diets. This parallels the situation globally, where most of the world’s hungry are poor farmers. In both cases, women and children suffer the most.

The root cause of food insecurity both in the U.S. and globally is a food system that is unjust, unsustainable, inequitable and volatile—controlled by a handful of global monopolies. Unfortunately, the World Food Summit failed to confront them or change the rules. In fact, it failed to do much of anything…

Also in this issue of News & Views:

  • “World Food Summit Fails to Halt Land Grabbing” by Raphael Grojnowski
  • “More Emergency Food Aid to California’s Heartland” by Zoe Brent

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