A paradox of plenty – hunger in America

By Bernd Debusmann
November 24, 2009

Bernd Debusmann–  Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Call it a paradox of plenty. In the world’s wealthiest country, home to more obese people than anywhere else on earth, almost 50 million Americans struggled to feed themselves and their children in 2008. That’s one in six of the population. Millions went hungry, at least some of the time. Things are bound to get worse.

This the bleak picture drawn from an annual survey on “household food security” compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and released in mid-November. It showed the highest level of food insecurity since the government started the survey, in 1995, and provided a graphic illustration of the effect of sharply rising unemployment.

This year’s picture will be even bleaker – the unemployment rate more than doubled from the beginning of 2008 to now, at 10.2 percent the highest in a quarter century. It is still climbing, and for many the distance between losing a job and lack of food security is very short.

In keeping with the American predilection for euphemisms, the word “hunger” does not appear in the report which classes food security into several categories, from “marginal” and “low” to “very low.”

Marginal food security means, in the lexicon of the USDA, “anxiety over food shortages or shortage of food in the house.” The second category, low, means “reduced quality, variety or desirability of diet,” but not necessarily less food.

The most severe category, “very low,” used to be labeled “food insecurity with hunger” and is defined as “disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.” That applied to around 17 million people, up from 12 million in 2007. Black and Hispanic families and single-parent households are the most affected.

It is not the kind of hunger — think African famines, skeletal babies with distended bellies — that brought world leaders to a U.N. food summit in Rome this month to boost aid from rich countries for agricultural development in the Third World. The U.S. is a land of plenty, so much so that a study by the University of Arizona a few years ago found that the average household wastes about 14 percent of their food purchases.

Food is so abundant that overeating is more of a problem, numerically and in terms of public health, than under-nutrition. The Food Research and Action Center, a Washington-based advocacy group, makes the point that “poverty can make people more vulnerable to hunger as well as obesity,” one of the reasons being that food high in calories is cheaper than healthy food. For many  Americans, hunger and obesity are two sides of the same poverty coin.

(International health statistics put the United States at the top of the obesity league. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight and a third of these are obese.)


Vicki Escarra, head of Feeding America, a hunger relief charity that runs 200 food banks in the U.S., has likened the growing difficulties of those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder to conditions in the Third World. She is right in more ways than one.

The USDA report reflects inequality of Third World proportions. While the Great Recession has culled the ranks of American millionaires — by 22 percent according to a September study by the Boston Consulting Group — the gap between rich and poor is not shrinking.

Last year, according to a report by the census bureau, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans made 11.4 times more than those living on the poverty line. The year before, the ratio was 11.2. At the far end of the economic scale, America’s six largest bank holdings have set aside $112 billion in salaries and bonuses during the first nine months of the year. By year’s end, bonuses might exceed the almost $164 billion paid in 2007, before the credit bubble banks had helped to inflate burst and millions of Americans lost their jobs and savings.

Banks and other financial institutions were rescued by a $700 billion infusion of taxpayer money and news of the bonuses coincided with reports that U.S. wages were at a 19-year low. Which helps explain growing anger among a public long famous for lacking the resentment of the rich that is common in other parts of the world.

After all, a bedrock belief in America held that this is the land of unlimited opportunities where every citizen has an equal chance to succeed and become rich. That requires an assumption that the system is fair. How many Americans still believe that? Last summer, a pair of political scientists, Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs, published a study whose findings included that just 28 percent thought the present distribution of wealth is fair.

More evidence that the gap between myth and reality is shrinking comes from the American Human Development project, a research group which found that “social mobility is now less fluid in the United States than in other affluent nations…a poor child born in Germany, France, Canada or one of the Nordic countries has a better chance to join the middle class in adulthood than an American child born into similar circumstances.”

A better chance to avoid food insecurity, too.

You can contact the author at Debusmann@Reuters.com


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Poverty in America is not a function of failure of society, it is a product of behavior. It is a result of not finishing school, substance abuse, self-destructive behavior and over consumption in “good” times. I’ve watched aliens come to America and within a short time become a “success.”

Posted by KMH | Report as abusive

Food banks are exhausting their supplies. Soup kitchens are experiencing bigger crowds seeking free meals.Most affluent people avoid the central slums of any city. They do not see the squalor that they’ve left behind.The homeless are now experiencing a new challenge: how to find a place to sleep, which is becoming harder to do as at least the state of Massachusetts has drastically cut funding for the poor.

Posted by Bernie | Report as abusive

“Call it a paradox of plenty. In the world’s wealthiest country”…I had to stop reading there. You guys are not even close. The USA is a disgraceful example of greed and selfishness that uncontrolled capitalism will bring to any country. Your massive social problems are a direct consequence of your greed and unwillingness to share within your society and still you can not accept it. Social support is evil right? Losers.

Great article! There are real problems developing in the U.S. and I think Obama is on the right track in dealing with some of them. Wealth is getting more concentrated at the top and is flowing to those who do little of real economic value. The middle class is increasingly growing poor and struggling to hold their lives together. The weight problem proliferates through the middle/lower class who eat cheap fast-food to fill themselves rather than healthy more expensive fare. So many of our nations problems stem from these issues as they manifest themselves in our health care system, legal system etc. all of which are getting ridiculously out-of-whack!

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive

If all the fat people would stop eating so much, maybe there would be enough to go around.

Posted by b | Report as abusive

Mr. Debussman is my favorite Reuters columnist, and this article on hunger in the U.S. is particularly moving. My wish is for him to post a future column that outlines some solutions both governmental/corporate and individual. My sense is that Americans are skeptical of charitable institutions due to many highly publicized scandals (including hunger-focused charities) wherein very little of the donations actually went to the hungry.Two other reasons we don’t act on this problem: (1) we’ve grown too accepting and complacent regarding “soup kitchens”, “food pantries”, and other labels that suggest there’s a ready solution for anyone who’s hungry, if they’ll just humble themselves enought to use them, and (2) the photos used when describing the hungry tend to be of adults, which reinforces the idea that these “able-bodied people” are just shiftless and lazy–the photo used for this column was unusual, as it was a child, and whether or not this was stock footage, the fact remains that it counteracts the “able-bodied” assumption and arouses more compassion.In short, I honestly believe that Americans, Republicans, Democrats and those in between, would take action on the hunger issue if we only knew what steps–societal and individual–would really make a difference.BTW, imagine what would happen if a campaign to fight hunger in America was marketed by the same geniuses who market iPhones, Kindle, or Coke!

Posted by Terry | Report as abusive

There’s lie, and then there’s blatant lie, and then there’s statistics.Even without access to exact numbers, I’d like to clarify the “household food security” stats a bit.Out of 17M counted as “The most severe category”, how many are food stamp recipients? The answer is “most”. Actually, it would be “virtually all” if we don’t count illegal aliens and those caught in violation of food stamp rules and consequently dropped from the program rolls. I know personally some food stamp recipients, and I know that, if planned carefully, the food stamps amount is sufficient to carry the recipient through, and even some are left over to be quietly exchanged for cash one way or another.Now, how many out of the 17M are smokers, or heavy drinkers, or drug users? The answer is “a lot”. If these substance abusers are put before the choice between food for them and their kids, or the substance of their choice, what the choice would likely be? Yep you guessed right.Before implying racism and social injustice, think who these people are, and how they got where they’re now. Hard work, clean life, and strong faith usually don’t take people to the state when they can’t put food on the table. Abuse and reliance on nanny state do. Yes, there are people who fell on hard times because of medical issues, accidents, or simply bad luck, but they are a minority in 17M of people being in “the most severe category”. The majority are there due to their own “efforts” for lack of better term.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

It really is worth looking at the political party that represents the states with the highest amount of poverty in the US.And I wonder why is that?

Posted by gill | Report as abusive

Compared to Europe, fruit and vegetables are expensive in the US. They’re also not advertised as much as fast food. The proportions are also much, much larger in the US. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw chocolate pies the size of car tires, strawberries the size of apples and 2 liter coke cups.Obese Americans could use more physical exercise as well.

A recent story on my Public Broadcasting station highlighted a homeless 20 something who admitted selling his food stamps for “weed”. This was possible because he can consistently find three meals per day though local relief agencies. Where is his incentive to change?

Posted by LBJ | Report as abusive

AnonymousYou read like someone who has never known struggle. Or if you have known these kinds of struggles you were at least surrounded by people willing to lend a helping hand in some fashion.That doesn’t much happen in the inner cities. Our economic system is plagued with thieves. You call them corporations. They are citizens under US law. With all of the money at their disposal they make sure that their interests are secured before and, or, at the expense of true citizens.Corporate citizenship is a scourge on society. These “citizens” are sociopaths. They care only for money and profit. They have only one responsibility which is to increase share holder value. Because profit is the only motivation they understand, responsibility and good citizenship are not and will not ever be part of their mission.They siphon money out of the system and leave massive debt behind. Now whole families go hungry. They are forced to buy the cheapest foods available in order to make their money stretch. These low grade foods eventually cause disease which places more stress on the health care system ( such as it is).Kids who don’t eat well do poorly in school. And teens that don’t eat well leave school in order to pay the bills. And don’t think that most of them go into legal jobs either.An inner city drug dealer can make enough money to pay his family’s bills and put food on the table. And no one can blame those people that choose that path. There is no reason for them to show loyalty to a system that has failed them.Corporate thieves get to keep their ill gotten profit and apologize. Poor criminals get thrown in prison. And then those who’s survival depended on that income are left without.Society teaches us that “cash is king”. And then we wonder why people don’t care about each other.

Some of these responses are pathetic.Anonymous: Your entire argument is baseless, trying to tie together substance/alcohol abuse behavior to keeping people in poverty just shows you have lived with a silver spoon in your mouth. Many people don’t turn to substance abuse and alcohol until they are in poverty, not only that some people are born into it, so where is the correlation there?b: The answer isn’t as simple as fat people stop eating so others can eat. Some people are under nourished while still being fat. Go to a supermarket with $1 and see what you can get that will provide the most calories, it is not going to be in the produce aisle I assure you.KMH: Using pretty little phrases doesn’t mean you make sense. I’ve watched aliens come into the US and come out worse then where they came from, so pointing to a couple success stories says nothing.The whole food issue is far too massive to pin on a couple cute solutions. Good article though and definitely food for thought.

Posted by Moose | Report as abusive

This is more nonsense by the liberal media. Everything, except the current administration, is fine in America. We are better off than every other country in every way. God bless America and support our troops.

For the last 50 years we’ve been importing poverty from over the border and subsidizing the poverty that was already here. Now we’re wondering why there’s so many poor people around. Yeah, that one’s a real brain-buster.

Posted by OliverClotheshoffe | Report as abusive

I don’t consider the extreme wealth distribution in this country a paradox. “Free” trade, outsourcing and immigration put the American middle class in competition with slave labor all over the world with the result that the “middle” class hasn’t had a raise in 30 years after adjusting for inflation while job growth has stagnated. By definition, the average IQ is 100 so half the population will never be movers and shakers but must have jobs that require mostly manual labor (skilled and unskilled) which is becoming scarcer and scarcer for Americans.This country is now owned by big worldwide corporations and I don’t think there’s any turning back. We have shot ourselves in both feet and the blood will continue to run.

Posted by Ray | Report as abusive

An obese friend of mine just got back from Disneyland and said he was shocked to see so many obeses twice as big as himself everywhere. He said many of them were no longer walking… they just use small karts to move themself around carrying huge bottles of coke and eating fries. Out of breath fat kids trying to catch up with their parent’s karts… Those guys just roll themselves from McDo to another McDo. That’s pathetic. USA! USA! USA! lol

Posted by Canuck | Report as abusive

as far as being obese lets talk about health care reform right there…..the poor have been with every society to me if a person had a piece of land and a shelter the tools for survival would be there so the truth of whether one would ever do anything to get themselves out of the situation they are in would be shown in a more pure way instead of going with the status quo of college job white picket fence etc which is fine but the “choice” defines a society of freedom which i believe our constitution is trying to give us instead of a society dominated by corpratism and imperialism with progressivley higher income taxes versus a shrinking middle class

Posted by kameha | Report as abusive

One wealthy US Industrialist,with great clout in that country and the rest of the World,is reported to have said,at the end of the 60s of the last Century,that the USA,would be de-industrialized.He should have known what he was speaking about and its consequences.This planned destruction of the US Citizens is deplorable and raises apprehensions that the same would happen in other nations of the World.

More evidence that the gap between myth and reality is shrinking comes from the American Human Development project, a research group which found that “social mobility is now less fluid in the United States than in other affluent nations…a poor child born in Germany, France, Canada or one of the Nordic countries has a better chance to join the middle class in adulthood than an American child born into similar circumstances.”

Posted by Ken bin Ken | Report as abusive

Many people do not think of fast food as a killer. The problem is that fast food kills slowly and painfully, through the development of many chronic sickness that sucks the national healthcare funds dry.

It’s a question of priorities.Apparently it was more important to some people to subsidize an ailing, corrupt insurance corporation in 2008 than to feed and clothe everyone in the United States.Apparently it was more important to the same people that (radioactive) waste be laid to vast tracts of Mesopotamian archaeology and that agonizing death be wrought upon generations of Middle Eastern civilians and U.S. American military personnel than to feed, clothe and give a free Rolls-Royce to every single individual on the planet.The worst obesity problems facing America are fat-headed leadership, and how long the general populace will go on lazily believing that their alleged leadership has anything of value to offer society as a whole, that this sort of leadership has any purpose in life besides feeding only the Rich.

Posted by The Bell | Report as abusive

I went hungry last night when the wait at Red Lobster was more than 45 minutes! It seems that the key to long life is a little starvation- people who are on the verge of starvation, but not starving to death, live much longer. Hopefully the stats in the US are true, as a people, we would be better off for it. Starvation only hurts if you starve to death, otherwise it is a good motivator to get out of poverty.

Posted by Claude Slagenhop | Report as abusive

Apparently, it is more important to waste money on war, endless war. The president is committing a bankrupt country to fight a Wall St war paid for by taxpayers; another 30,000 soldiers to the graveyard of civilizations. what is the war about? killing who? Bin Laden? Al Queda? Taliban (who we funded and created). The USA is not the country it used to be, in fact, its not even a country anymore. It’s a collective of duped citizens who believe we have a government protecting them, when in fact it is really the Incorporated States of America owned, rented, controlled by multinational greedy corporations who make money on killing and starving us. They take everything, your homes, your lives, your children, the air over your head, the water from the clouds, the earth under your feet, and your soul and mind. The USA is only a mercenary, a puppet, for multinational corps and a new world “order” as they call it. this writing is from a normal middle class american, not a wacko.

Posted by Kat will in man | Report as abusive

What in the world does executive compensation have to do with hunger? (Hint: Asolutely nothing!) Kind of a clumsy, transparent play of the class envy card there! What rubbish! Absolutely no one in America has to go hungry. Food Stamps, free school lunches (and free health clinics too, btw!)and meals at shelters are readily available. The sad reality is that the Democrat’s liberal policies, beginning with LBJ’s “Great Society”, have had the unintended result of perpetuating and expanding an underclass dependent on government handouts. The saddest fact is that so many have been propagandized to believe they can not make it on their own, particularly among African Americans. This explains survey results suggesting many think the system is not fair.The assertion that Americans have less upward mobility is flat ridiculous. For God’s sake, a black man with no talent or experience was just elected president! Affirmative action programs and financial aid programs based on need are robust and wide spread. Most anyone who does not succeed in America has only themselves to blame.

Posted by DanDetroit | Report as abusive

btw-In addition to adequate nutrition,even those considered below the “poverty level” in the U.S. typically have housing, one or more cars, cell phones and air conditioning!

Posted by DanDetroit | Report as abusive

I am mostly appalled that The Bell was forced to wait 45 minutes for a scrumptious feast from the Red Lobster. And now being reminded of Red Lobster, I am off to Red Lobster.

Posted by alvin | Report as abusive

Does anyone here complaining about the system ever even donate to the food banks? They need money and they’ll take anything they can get.I donate to 3. Yeah, it sometimes means not going to restaurants and movies (which are both grossly overpriced) but I just can’t turn my back on people I know are hungry. We can be a part of the problem or the solution, but I get so tired of people complaining about how bad this country is. Move then!

Posted by Katherine | Report as abusive

Very interesting article with 100% of reality as a “Paradox”Congratulations for the author.In my understanding, I believe that worse is coming. Less and less people are representing middle class. Without middle class no any society has any progress. Now only Greed and Greed is the “Importance Of Being Earnest”People who are preparing “Codex Alimentarius” GM Food, damaged catastrophically our planet1. 27 billion running lawsuit for dumping toxins by Texaco – presently Chevron in Amazon, Ecuador2. Alberta Oil Sands the worst and biggest, present individual pollutant in the world according to Gore. Although President Obama is scheduled to participate in Copenhagen debate, the Canadian Prime Minister is going to be absent. How many natural resources are destroyed (soil, fish, animals – real food).The worst thing that so many bad things promoted by big corporations who have now power over governments are legally free for making our planet worse and worse in thesake of greed.

Posted by Ted M. Konewka | Report as abusive

I expect that the “Powers That Be” who run this Country will give us more Circus to make up for the diminished Bread.

Posted by D Sakarya | Report as abusive

There is hunger, homelessness, and growing numbers of those without health care in America. And until we address the real causes, the shame will continue.Instead of blaming the victims of unfettered capitalism for their failure to adapt into the predatory system, we should blame the system for failing to provide the opportunities for living a life without the shame and disgrace of poverty.Living in the land of plenty and being cold, hungry and homeless is totally unacceptable. If the system can not meet the needs of the society, then society owes no allegiance to that system.I already know what the defenders of selfishness and greed will say about me, but it doe not matter. There will be enough of those who read this to understand where I’m coming from.It’s about responsibility being a shared concept, not a top down, finger pointing, tongue clicking, elitist member of the “ownership society” trying to blame the less fortunate for their own situation. So….The economy should fit the needs of the people, not the people serving the greed of the “ownership society”.

Posted by awfton | Report as abusive

Hungry and obese.With the prevailing trend according to studies Americans will be 85% obese by 2040.Obesity is a problem of modern life providing excessive food and machinery that replace human exercise.The challenge is to develop awareness on healthy lifestyles eating less when food is so abundant and keep working when machinery can do everything.Education is just helping people to get more money but not using their knowledge on their own good.Even the General Surgeon is obese. A physician that failed to use her background on her own good is leading Americans on healthy issues.The truth is that developed countries are having problems with the food system as well and with the economic issues.It seems that poor countries can afford neither fast food nor a flawed economic system that greed and fear mars simple laws of offer and demand.There is no doubt of an ongoing widespread failure on global leadership in order to protect simple principles of human existence.We are molding a new landscape we were not prepared to deal with but time will teach us the nature functioning required to keep going.

What unadulterated bullshit! 50 mil go hungry! Get a life. I am sick and tired of crazies getting a free ride in the press. Make something sound bad enought and we will print it. enough already.

Posted by Phil | Report as abusive

DATA below from 2004. Anyone know what it is now?The top 1% of families owned 37% of all stocks, 62% of all closely held businesses, and 47% of nonresidential real estate. Percentages for the bottom 90% were 21%, 10%, and 24%, respectively.America’s 112 million families had combined wealth of $50.3 trillion in 2004. When those families are ranked by the size of their wealth, however, the top 1% alone held $16.8 trillion in wealth, more than a third of the United States’ total wealth and more than the $15.3 trillion held by 90% of U.S. families. The top 1% had average wealth of $15 million per family in contrast to the $22,800 average wealth of the least wealthy 50% of families or the $313,500 in wealth for families ranked between 50% and 90%.Homes accounted for more than a third of American families’ assets. Primary residences are the asset with the least-skewed ownership, with the top 1% owning primary homes worth $1.9 trillion and the bottom 90% owning $11.8 trillion. That is not the case, however, when it comes to ownership of second homes, a far greater source of wealth for the top 1% ($1.1 trillion) than the bottom 90% ($0.02 trillion).

Posted by Louise H | Report as abusive

Flawed methodology, class warfare and misleading stats. If ‘hunger’ includes people *worried* about putting food on the table, then it’s all pure BS. So that 50 million number is simply manufactured out of whole cloth. And its worse, if you miss a single meal during the year, for nearly ANY reason, it can be included in the stat. Even 1 meal on 1 day.In other words, this is misleading propaganda and not worthy of coverage. Reuters should be ashamed.

Posted by Penguintopia | Report as abusive

DID YOU KNOW:If each person on the planet was given an equal amount of Earth’s global resources, the average standard of living possessed by each person would be equal to a lower class mexican slum dweller.This average standard lowers yearly, as Earth’s population expands larger. By 2050 if each person was given an equal share of resources, the average standard of living will be equal to a starving african adult.Essentially, the only way to eradicate poverty is to make everyone equally destitute.

Posted by Friendly Fact | Report as abusive

These are good questions, but they are certainly not uniquely American. I am an American who has lived in Europe for the last five years. Net real (purchasing power) pay for the normal citizen here is much lower here than in the U.S. and food is much more expensive, both prepared and at the grocery store. People eat less here, for sure. I eat like a normal American and am thinner than average, but coworkers are constantly commenting on how much I eat!Standards for what is considered “hungry” in North America are much, much lower than anywhere in the world. Once again, the U.S. is, ironically, both the proudest and the most self-depricating nation on earth.

Posted by Zooropa | Report as abusive

“What in the world does executive compensation have to do with hunger? (Hint: Asolutely nothing!) Kind of a clumsy, transparent play of the class envy card there! What rubbish! Absolutely no one in America has to go hungry. Food Stamps, free school lunches (and free health clinics too, btw!)”Dan,executive compensation would not be a problem if it weren’t paid for by money that was supposed to go towards securing the interests of the citizenry. Those free school lunches and free health clinics depend mostly on government subsidies. Where will that money come from when it’s going to finance war and destruction?Class envy indeed. Try living on the services you mentioned. See how far you get. You obviously have no idea what it’s like. Have YOU done anything to help provide for those school lunches and free clinics? And don’t give me the tired answer that you pay taxes. Every person pays taxes unless they make no money at all, or are wealthy enough to avoid it.Your comments are the epitome of the selfishness that has caused so much suffering in our nation. If you are fortunate maybe you too can be one of the poor you despise so much. Then you will gain some perspective and hopefully a little wisdom.

There is an answer to unrestricted accumulation of wealth at the expense of the masses. It is called ‘communism’. This is when the long downtrodden poor seize the means of production and liquidate the rich as a class. Only now the means of production are being exported from the country to slave nations. When the great awakening occurs, and it now seems inevitable with only the ‘when’ unknown, the people will find their factories….gone! They will also find the holders of the ‘paper’, the so called ‘intellectual property’, the so called ‘rights to manufacture’, the so called ‘rights to distribute or sell’ ….gone to foreign ‘safe havens’. These will be some island somewhere protected by treaties among all the rich nations so that a revolt among one will be met, Metternich style, by war and invasion from all the others. This strategy will fail, just like it did in 1848, when multiple nations become involved and conflicting national ambitions down the pacts. Getting at those of the wealthy class will be difficult, and deadly, and the longer the rich hold out and steal from the people, the much more thorough the extermination of them when the days of reckoning finally come. Along with the liquidation of the rich will be, as this time lengthens, the concommitant annhilation of their lackeys and useful fools and fellow travelers will also become more determined. This will be an action among billions of people and inexorable as a slow motion train wreck. Leaders of the popular rage when found, betrayed, or whatever will almost instantly be replaced by others. Put ‘commies’ in jail, they will convert the entire contents of the places. Kill them and they will be martyrs to the masses in a social event that will make the French Revolution seem like an ice cream social.

Posted by Chester Drawers | Report as abusive

Sometimes folks have to make sacrifices to purchase that 98 inch flat screen tv or the latest xbox game.Let them make their choices, but please stop with the guilt trip. I already feel guilty for racism, sexism, homophobia, and the destruction of the environment. I can’t handle the responsibility of being guilty for yet another critical issue like hunger.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

Another nut case. Americans are doing fine. Everyone feels obliged to ‘rescue’ the other guy, take care of yourself pops.

Posted by funnominal | Report as abusive

DanDetroit: “btw-In addition to adequate nutrition,even those considered below the “poverty level” in the U.S. typically have housing, one or more cars, cell phones and air conditioning!Yes, Dan, they are descendants and new versions of Ronald Reagan’s Cadillac-driving Welfare Queen. But it is worth remembering that she turned out to be a queen of fiction.

Posted by Elvira | Report as abusive

The report identifies blacks and hispanics as especially hard hit. Well, blacks are well into their 4th decade of 60-70% illegitimate birthrate and hispanics, the large majority being immigrants and also with a 50% illegitimate birthrate are right on their tale. Johnson’s Great Society has created generations of government dependent poor. For those railing about the cost of war, social spending annually dwarfs what is being spent on the military. America has plenty of resources but it is not limitless. Most of this problem is the result of being born or immigrated directly into poverty and will not be solved until we address this root cause.

Posted by Fraque | Report as abusive

The Bell is Absolutely Right. Let’s re-distribute wealth by lowering or eliminating our leaderships fat retirement packages and corporate ceos bonuses.

Posted by Michele | Report as abusive

In my opinion, this article seem me very interesting and thoughtful, it must be publicized in more accessible sources to American people, but any way, America is not just USA is America.We say God bless America and God bless us. When things are not going well, we all need pray together. Poverty will never disappear in this world, but we need to find some palliatives in order to decrease its growing. It’s shameful seeing many homeless everyday and talking about scarceness of food.

In my opinion, this article seem me very interesting and thoughtful, it must publicized in more accessible sources toward American people, but anyway, America is not just USA any more, is America. We say God bless America and God bless us. When things are not going well, we all need to pray together. Poverty will never disappear in this world but as soon as possible, we need to find some effective palliative measures in order to decrease its growing and avoid a fatal chaos.

The united states subsidies the growing of crops that end up in unhealthy foods Which in turn makes unhealthy food cheap. When your poor and struggling to feed your family you have no option but to eat the cheapest most available food. Because of the subsidies this makes the cheapest food low in nutrition and high in calories/fat.If the US government was to subsidies the growing of whole grain, fruit and vegetables; and lower the subsidies on factory-farmed meat. The poor would be forced into a healthy diet which is high in nutrition. Then, obesity would be a preserve of the rich and the working classes could get back to working and making the countries wealth. Hunger would be cut down too because even though the poor would still be eating only a little, the food would nourish them much more.

Posted by Daz | Report as abusive

I challenege the author to do a four-hour shift at a Walmart register,to see for himself first-hand the amount of chips/sodas/ice cream/candy purchased with the ‘food stamp’ cards.Those not working the system are probably not aware the full months’ allotment of ‘food stamp’ money may be used on sodas and chips.Several weeks ago,I was behind a 20-something man in the check-out line who paid for the following with food stamp card; 8 custom-cut rib-eyes,3 heads of lettuce,assorted tomatoes/onions/bell peppers, 5 varieties of salad dressing,butter ( NOT margarine), 5 loaves of French bread from deli,3 cartons of ‘upscale’ ice cream…then after food was rung up,the obligatory 2 cases of beer,a carton of cigarettes and 4 bags of charcoal for his cook-out.The store I patronize has a large number of college students employed there; they relate tales of 25 candy bars,birthday cakes,$12 per lb. crab salad purchases with food stamp card-and wonder why the hell THEY’RE working in order to give junk food to those who won’t work.

Posted by A.Mitchell | Report as abusive

This is another variation of the climate change scam. Having worked for a food bank, it is all a numbers game. US poverty is not like third world poverty. Those folks would love to be as poor as US poor. Questions to ask – do these folks have cell phones, bathrooms, running water, electricity,TV, cable/dish, are their kids going to school (if not why not) cars/trucks or access to transportation, access to doctors and medicine (that is a yes thanks due to emergency rooms and laws). This is prime fundraising time for food not for profits. Once Thanksgiving is over, you will not here about food but toys.

Posted by silverbelle1008 | Report as abusive

I believe Bill Hicks said it best:”The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever. Because this is just a ride.” And we…kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok? But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, not work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”Fear or love.

Posted by Dylan Holly | Report as abusive

Fraque – I’m sorry but where did you get your data? At over 1/2 of a TRILLION dollars per YEAR, the US military budget as large as the rest of the world combined and dwarfs any social spending we try to pretend to take seriously.

Posted by reutersme | Report as abusive