Hunger Is Not What You Think It Is

The first and perhaps most interesting thing about hunger in America is that the US government no longer measures it. Many years ago, the feds stopped measuring hunger because experts could not agree on who might qualify and very likely the number who qualified was vanishingly small.

The US Department of Agriculture went to the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies that concluded hunger “…should refer to a potential consequence of food insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of food results in discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation.”

Because they could not find anyone who might qualify, they stopped measuring it. You would not know this from the advertising of the multi-billion-dollar hunger-industry. A group called “Fleecing America”—I mean “Feeding America”—brings in $2 billion a year convincing the government and the people that millions of kids are going to bed hungry every night.

Instead of measuring hunger, they measure something called “food security.” But even food security is not what the hunger-industry wants us to believe. According to the USDA, low food security means that a “Household reduced the quality, variety, and desirability of their diets, but the quantity of food intake and normal eating patterns were not substantially disrupted” (emphasis mine).

Then there is very low food security: “At times during the year, eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake reduced because the household lacked money and other resources for food.” It should be noted that sometimes adults in these households may have skipped a meal. That is a matter we should take seriously, but this is not the same thing as “hunger,” which is a prolonged and involuntary lack of food that can lead to illness or worse. The government survey reports 6.3 million households say they qualify for this category.

Heritage Foundation hunger and poverty expert Robert Rector told Congress in 2015, “For Americans to go without food for an entire day represents a social problem, but it is a problem that is limited in scope, and it requires a well-informed policy response.” But then Rector wonders how it is possible for a person not to be able to feed himself, especially for those admittedly limited times when it might be a problem. He said, “In fact, filing a stomach is quite cheap; 1,000 calories of rice, purchased in bulk, costs only 30 cents. In a pinch, an adult can fill his stomach and meet all his daily calorie needs with healthful but inexpensive foods for a dollar a day.”

As I explore in my new book Fake Science: Exposing the Left’s Skewed Statistics, Fuzzy Facts, and Dodgy Data, except in the area of the environment, the left is quite hostile to the notion of changing behavior to alleviate personal and societal concerns. In fact, even very low food security can be alleviated by quite simple changes in behavior.

According to government statistics, very low food secure adults are more likely to smoke than food secure adults. In fact, cigarette smoking is a major cause of low food security. As Rector points out, “45 percent of adults with very low food security smoked cigarettes during the 30 days prior to the survey.” He adds that 62 percent of adults who reported they did not eat for a whole day for lack of money had smoked cigarettes during the month.

I used to smoke. I quit when a pack went to $7 in New York City. If a low food security adult smokes one pack a day, depending on cost, they are spending between $100 and $200 a month, money that will not go into the family food budget. It should be noted that $112 per month equals 63 percent of the cost of food for a single adult under the USDA’s “Thrifty Food Plan.”

Other enemies of the low food secure includes fast food. Low food secure households spend 25 percent of their food budget at fast food restaurants or from vending machines. These are among the most expensive calories you can buy. A Big Mac provides 138 calories per dollar. All-purpose flour provides 4,717, rice provides 3,599, rice and beans provides 2,178. Even peanut butter provides much more, 1,730. Fast food is not the poor man’s friend.

Even vending machine sodas are a huge drain on the low food secure budget. Very low food security adults drink an average of two sodas per day running north of $70 per month.

Try explaining any of this to the left and you will see an almost immediate meltdown, and a hostile one at that. I have been called “filth,” and a “swine” who “hates the poor” or “denies the poor exist.” And this is from social justice warriors, Catholic division.

Almost immediately, the left gives you dozens of reasons why the poor cannot cook, among them that they do not have stoves. They say the poor do not have time to cook, do not know how, and actually deserve the luxury of Big Macs. They also deserve cigarettes because they are poor. It is odd that SJWs otherwise condemn fast food, cigarettes, and even sugary soft drinks. What’s more, they would condemn eating processed foods out of boxes. Twenty-three hours out of every twenty-four, SWJs condemn this kind of behavior but when it comes from a conservative, it becomes a hate crime.

They also blame hunger on “food deserts,” poor neighborhoods where grocery stores do not exist. The poor simply do not have access to fresh food, so they have to rely on McDonald’s. However, take a look at the South Bronx on Google maps, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country; put in a search for grocery stores. What you will find is seven grocery stores including five on a mile-long stretch of Third Avenue. The Google picture of C-Town on Third Avenue and 145th Street shows chicken thighs or drumsticks at 99 cents a pound, and pork spare ribs at $1.99.

What you find among Social Justice Warriors is an embarrassingly patronizing attitude toward poor people. If conservatives ever said the poor did not have the capacity to cook, they would almost certainly be called racist by the same people who say this about the poor today.

I have absolutely no doubt, however, that they would be laughed out of the South Bronx, or worse, if they tried to tell any woman along Third Avenue that she does not have a stove to cook on—“of course I have a stove, honey”—or that she lacks the knowledge to fry a pork chop, boil a side of rice, and even something green. Some things only white liberals can believe, or say.

Austin Ruse

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Austin Ruse is president of C-FAM (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute. He is the author of Fake Science: Exposing the Left’s Skewed Statistics, Fuzzy Facts, and Dodgy Data published by Regnery. He is also the author of the new book Little Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ published by Tan Books. The views expressed here are solely his own.

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