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Many of the hungry are wage earners, even former food donors. It's not just the unemployed, or those without work inexplicably excluded from the data. Among the actual youth of the nation, food insecurity's exploding. No, they don't all get taken care of by the churches or Uncle Sam. People fall through the cracks every day.

Maybe we're a third world nation by these numbers. Maybe we've fallen behind four generations. Either way, decisions await us.

So, what is an acceptable number of hungry children for our society?

h/t to C&L

My home state is among the hungriest. At the very height of the Bush boom from 2006-2008, 1 of 8 Oregon households went without. But as we all know, things are very different now from illusory "good" times.

So, how many vacays, purses and Hummers will those with the ability-to-pay be willing to forgo so that less Americans know the pangs? Where do we draw that line?

From the USDA, we know the 2007 Bush depression:

...catapulted the number of Americans who lack enough food to the highest level since the government has been keeping track, according to a new federal report, which shows that nearly 50 million people -- including almost one child in four -- struggled last year to get enough to eat.

...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.

This is my local newsteam and the Oregon Food Bank, who I'm so familiar with due to the remarkably poor health of the state system.

"To try and calm a hungry child and get them to go to sleep--so that they won't feel hungry--is terrible."

The good news is that food stamps work, for those who have them.

The bad news is food is still one the most expendable choices of many homes' budgets. Many don't qualify for food stamps. But regardless, other expenses matter. Commuting to work can't cease and loan payments or rent can't be paused. The thing nobody forces households to do is the essential biological function.

Here's one tiny example of why it matters when children don't eat. Believe it or not, sub-clinical nutrient deficiencies are really common, even with the famous vitamin C. But how many know what zinc does?

it appears that zinc deficiency may lead to deficits in children's neuropsychologic functioning, activity, or motor development, and thus interfere with cognitive performance.

Zinc deficiency may be far more common than once thought. Research into its association with diabetes continues, both a precursor and an impediment to successful management. Gee, can you start to imagine a plausible link between something like zinc deficiency and the academic problems and diseases, like diabetes, ascribed to the poor youth and the food insecure? I've touched on one essential nutrient that poorly-fed children lack: what of selenium, copper, iron, chromium? What of biotin, folate and Vitamin A?

Most American youth lack adequate Vitamin D:

A whopping 70 percent of American kids aren't getting enough vitamin D, and such youngsters tend to have higher blood pressure and lower levels of good cholesterol than their peers, according to two new studies published this week in the journal Pediatrics. Low vitamin D levels also may increase a child's risk of developing heart disease later in life, experts say.

The health you have in your early years sticks with you, with consequences for the unfortunate. Why consequences for low cholesterol? For one thing it tends to be found among people most susceptible to various infections. Remember, this is an innate product of the body we're messing with--not the component of your scrambled eggs. And who cares about some obscure vitamin? Well, it matters if you don't want to become seriously depressed or know the pain of osteoporosis--it affects your bones and your personality.

And who knows the extent? Sunshine doesn't cut it, you need to eat lots of Vitamin D. It's found in seafood, whole dairy and other fatty foods including pork, but not-so-much canned vegetables. What poor people can't afford. Fats and proteins are expensive but they also nourish you. To say nothing of satiating your hunger, so you don't feel like eating a bag of chips from the convenience store or Sam's Club.

Feeding children cans of corn or green beans, peanut butter and sandwich bread will provide some vitamins for sure--especially riboflavin, thiamine, niacin. But not zinc and D, let alone other nutrients. Yet that's the kind of food the lucky poor get. And for the chosen mothers who qualify, the WIC program encourages the consumption of nutrient-empty calories like juice, but is frugal about the beans and rice. Which again, are nowhere near providing all of the many many vitamins and minerals a person needs in a day.

And how much else have we forgotten here?

Progress isn't progress if it leaves people hungry. We can pass a health care plan, we can build solar panels from Bellingham to Key West, we can end the war in Iraq. And if Americans still go hungry, at best we'd be fools to pretend we should boss around China or the EU or Iraq or Afghanistan, and possibly in a state of great evil. We're judged by how we treat the least of these, including those we excuse away because we disagree with their choices (or lack thereof) in life. We have choices, too.

America, we must get this house in order.

Originally posted to Nulwee on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 07:43 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Food insecure? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      debedb, Nulwee, cai

      the food insecure

      Why label people as the food insecure?  Have you considered just calling them the "hungry"?

      Food insecure just has a really awkward sound to it.  

      •  They used to. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nulwee, xysea

        Three years ago, Bush's Ag Department redefined "hunger" as "very low food security".

        The USDA said that 12 percent of Americans -- 35 million people -- could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times. Beginning this year, the USDA has determined "very low food security" to be a more scientifically palatable description for that group.

        ...

        In assembling its report, the USDA divides Americans into groups with "food security" and those with "food insecurity," who cannot always afford to keep food on the table. Under the old lexicon, that group -- 11 percent of American households last year -- was categorized into "food insecurity without hunger," meaning people who ate, though sometimes not well, and "food insecurity with hunger," for those who sometimes had no food.

        Scientifically, the name may make sense, but I'm pretty sure science wasn't the Bush administration's reason for adopting it.  It does an excellent job obscuring the human reality, so we have to have it explained to us.

  •  Now I'm really getting tired of this, (6+ / 0-)

    this is supposed to be a Democratic site, and here you are posting a diary that brags of Republican success.

  •  One of Obama's campaign promises was to (9+ / 0-)

    end childhood hunger in the US by 2015. Sadly, his promise just got a lot harder to keep.

    www.feedingamerica.org

    So now you're in the minority...it's SUPPOSED to taste like a shit taco - Jon Stewart to the GOP

    by blueyescryinintherain on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 07:56:39 PM PST

  •  Instead of tackling this problem (5+ / 0-)

    the plutocracy through their proxies in the Republican Party, or at least the fringe, are anticipating widespread anger and disaffection.  The relentless scapegoating is an attempt to deflect the backlash from its most logical target--the rich and well-fed.

    But I'm not here to complain about that or vilify them.  I'm here to say that this is how it is, so it is up to people to take care of each other, not to get too caught up in the polarizing rhetoric but rather to care for the hungry whether they have fallen for Fox News or are dyed-in-the-wool Democrats.  (While continuing to fight politically, of course.)

    It is on issues like these that we most miss a media which reflects back to us more clearly who we really are.  Thanks for doing your part.

    I refuse to live in a country like that. And I'm not moving. - Michael Moore

    by geomoo on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:03:46 PM PST

  •  Republicans (8+ / 0-)
    do not recognize this phenomenum as "hunger."  They call it carb/protein/fat denial syndrome, not covered by insurance.
  •  How Do You Decide What to Feed Your Kids? (7+ / 0-)

    There are cheap sources of most major nutrients out there in America.

    Starches -- pasta, rice, potatoes -- are very inexpensive.

    Vegetables?  Well, a pound frozen green vegetables is anywhere from $1-$2.50.  That's four generous servings.

    Even proteins -- if nothing else, two or three eggs as a serving per meal really just costs pennies.  Chicken legs and drumsticks might cost as low as $.69 a pound.

    So, why aren't poor families choosing to feed their kids these cheap and nutritive foods?

    I am guessing that it's a combination of 1) availability, 2) time constraints, 3) appropriate kitchen tools and 3) life skills.

    Middle-class and affluent Americans can drive or walk to nearby grocery stores and have more leisure time, kitchens and kitchen equipment and the knowledge they need to make healthy meals ...

    Seems unlikely that poor folks would have this stuff.

    I won't tell anyone that Reagan was a turd.

    by bink on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:10:13 PM PST

    •  If you're scraping by month to month (8+ / 0-)

      always or always risking being late on rent, it's not hard to fall behind on even the cheap basics. I've been there as a single person with a robust appetite, without growing kids.

      These clowns claim to admire him [Cronkite] but do not wish to emulate him - GUGA

      by Nulwee on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:13:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm Unemployed (7+ / 0-)

      (Sorry to keep harping on that ...)

      But I eat very, very well on very, very low food budget.  But I probably spend two hours a day cooking.  And I live in a nice part of town two blocks from a full-service grocery store.  I'm computer literate, so I can find recipes and read about nutrition online whenever I please.  I've also got an electric rice cooker, a pressure cooker, a food processor, a blender, utilities that always work, decent appliances.

      I can't imagine any working Mom with a couple of kids doing what I do to keep in budget.

      I won't tell anyone that Reagan was a turd.

      by bink on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:14:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I spend about the same time cooking (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bink, tmo, Cassandra Waites

        and I'm unemployed, too.

        One thing I've found is that there are very good cuts of meat that are cheap. Neck of lamb? It's pretty much a cheap steak, actually, and provides lots of iron and zinc and protein. But it's generally not Winco prices. Even Trader Joe's can add up when you're trying to buy a lot of food. Their bananas and loaves of bread are cheap, but once you get into their entree selections and snacks, watch out.

        These clowns claim to admire him [Cronkite] but do not wish to emulate him - GUGA

        by Nulwee on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:19:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Liver is the other major one. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bink, blueoasis

          But then, it's 'distinctive'.

          These clowns claim to admire him [Cronkite] but do not wish to emulate him - GUGA

          by Nulwee on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:39:16 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I Love Liver (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blueoasis, Nulwee

            I'm always inspired by diaries about hunger to demonstrate all of the amazing dishes that I know how to create that cost almost nothing.  One of my favorites right now are savory rice porridges studded with all sort of vegetable and/or meat and egg goodies.

            It doesn't cost much money ...

            But it assumes that a whole bunch of other essential needs have already been fulfilled.  My "low-budget recipes for the temporarily unemployed" really aren't much use to someone who is chronically poor.

            I won't tell anyone that Reagan was a turd.

            by bink on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:44:01 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  How available is it? And how do you get it home? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bink, Cassandra Waites

      I grocery shop for two weeks at a time. This means about five to six bags of groceries. (I actually pack about ten, but I pack them light since I have fibromyalgia.) Real ingredients are heavy. How many bags of groceries can you carry? On the bus? With your kids along? When they and you are all tired and hungry? I know I wouldn't be able to manage five or six full brown bags.

      I think I should go to the grocery store that I could walk to and the one I have to drive to and discuss the available varieties of fresh produce in a diary. I will say, however, that the other side of it is that this little hole in the wall place with a minimal amount of fresh stuff keeps a meat cutter on staff and an old-fashioned meat counter in the back that tends to source its meat from local producers. I have a car, so I have the freedom to drive somewhere else to buy my vegetables. I go there to buy my meat.

      •  Exactly (4+ / 0-)

        We want people to make healthy, low-cost food choices ...

        But what if people don't have the opportunity to chose?

        I won't tell anyone that Reagan was a turd.

        by bink on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:27:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The municipal bus lines at my college (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tmo, blueoasis, Nulwee

        were such that food from the grocery had to be nonperishable - refrigerated food would be warm from the time and bus heat and frozen would be fairly well thawed.

        The local public and low-cost housing was later on the route. There's no way they could have gotten frozen veggies or raw meat home in usable condition without an insulated bag, IF then, without a car.

        There was a closer grocery, but it was out of walking distance and nowhere near the bus routes.

        Hoping and praying that the empty chairs and empty tables in Iran when all is said and done are as few as possible.

        by Cassandra Waites on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:31:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Frozen veggies presumes a freezer. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bink, tmo, blueoasis, Nulwee

      I've seen magazine articles where a janitor was living in an apartment with the mattress on the floor and a kitchen that consisted of a single microfridge.

      There are things that cannot be successfully prepared in a microwave.

      Your 3) of kitchen tools can be a biggie. My college in-room diet expanded like crazy when I gained access to a stovetop versus when I'd just had a microwave.

      Hoping and praying that the empty chairs and empty tables in Iran when all is said and done are as few as possible.

      by Cassandra Waites on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:28:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tmo, Nulwee, Cassandra Waites

        Not to mention, if you are living in and out of shelters, or couch surfing with the in-laws or any other of the semi-homeless situations that poor people find themselves in these days.

        I won't tell anyone that Reagan was a turd.

        by bink on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:31:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Or if you're renting and the appliances (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bink, blueoasis

          don't work, or don't seem safe.

          ...

          There's a sci-fi book I used to love by George Turner called Drowning Towers. In part of it, a bunch of college-age kids have to survive in what passes for public housing conditions for a short while. They have the list of available equipment, the list of available food they can get, and the number of food ration credits that number of people would get in said housing.

          They don't check the equipment before they order the food.

          They have to eat the perishable stuff in one huge rush feast before it goes bad, and then have next to nothing left for the end of the experience, despite the fact that, theoretically, they had enough food to survive without truly going hungry.

          Hoping and praying that the empty chairs and empty tables in Iran when all is said and done are as few as possible.

          by Cassandra Waites on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 08:37:31 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Apparently... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Miss Jones, Jagger, debedb, Nulwee, Azazello

    Capitalism as practiced in the us is scarcely better at delivering the goods than communism.   This is the kind of nation we are?  There's something to be proud of!!!!

  •  don't forget our blogathon this weekend (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee

    feeding america. this diary should be tagged to include in that series. thanks for this report.

    "And the dream lives on" Edward M. Kennedy

    by boatsie on Wed Nov 18, 2009 at 12:53:10 AM PST

  •  Let Them Eat Cake! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee

    I remember Pennsylvania Governor Dick (accurately named) Thornburgh telling poor people his solution to unemployment was to look in newspapers and get jobs when the Help Wanted ads were about as scarce as they could get with the steel industry dying earlier and businesses pulling up stakes and heading to the sun belt down south where labor laws aren't as tough and unions are weak.  Typical Republican -- I got mine, that's all that counts, fuck you!!

    (Thornburgh's solution to raising a retarded son was to institutionalize him rather to mainstream him and care for him at home because he was an embarassment, a burden, and a political liability rather.  It was easy to dump him off on the state rather than to provide the love needed to get the boy functional in society.)  

  •  Looking at free and reduced lunch statistics (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee, xysea, bushondrugs

    in recent days I've been stunned to discover that since the 05-06 school year there has been a significant (20+ percent at some schools!) reduction in the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch in one large district in Wisconsin. I'm guessing it's a national trend given the economy.  I'm hoping my first rec'd (as yet to be written!) diary here is an expose on this disturbing trend!

  •  Hi Nulwee (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee
    I am so glad this was Rescued!  This is a pet cause of mine, as I am concerned both with rising poverty and as a single parent have accessed food banks at various times over the years.  I'm pretty fortunate right now to have an excellent job that covers my expenses and then some, so I haven't had to - but I still give food to pantries whenever I can.

    Thanks for a great diary!  Subscribed.

    I'm sick of GOP SOP!

    by xysea on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 06:53:51 AM PST

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