Happy Days Are Here Again!

21 11 2006

OPEN FORUM

‘My stomach is touching my back’

Paul Ash

Monday, November 20, 2006

The federal government has decided to drop the word “hunger” from its vocabulary, according to a new report released by the USDA. The reason? USDA sociologist Mark Nord, the author of the report, claims that the term “hungry” is “not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey. We don’t have a measure of that condition.”

The USDA will now use the term “very low food security” to describe people who used to be considered “food insecure with hunger.” Statistically speaking, hunger will no longer exist in America.

The release of the report, however, follows five straight years of increases in the number of Americans unable to afford the food they need. Nord and the USDA may feel comfortable saying there is no hunger in America, simply because they can’t find a precise scientific measure to describe it. It is not so difficult. In fact, it’s so easy a child could do it. A young boy at a San Francisco food pantry knows exactly how to describe hunger. He says, “My stomach is touching my back.”

To be fair, the USDA’s point is not that hunger doesn’t exist, but that this particular survey, the annual “Household Food Security in the United States,” is designed to measure food security — an economic and social condition related to limited or uncertain access to food. Hunger is a physiological condition.

Because the USDA doesn’t ask survey participants about their physiological symptoms, it can’t claim that the study measures “hunger.” Unfortunately, no national government survey exists that does measure hunger in a more precisely defined way, and there are no plans to start one. In the meantime, the “Household Food Security” study is our federal government’s principal gauge of — forgive my use of the term — hunger in America.

If the government stops using the word “hunger,” people may begin to believe that hunger has gone away. It hasn’t. Just ask that little boy whose stomach is touching his back.

Whatever you call the problem, the statistics are grim: 35 million people in America are living in food-insecure households.

. . .

Yet for the past six years, the Bush administration has been cutting food-assistance programs, and in some cases, proposing to eliminate them.

. . .
The new Democratic-led Congress has an important opportunity to reverse these policies. They can take the lead in combatting hunger by restoring and increasing funding for the government food-assistance programs that provide vital nutrition to low-income Americans. And they should never be afraid to call hunger by its name.

Paul Ash is the executive director of the San Francisco Food Bank (www.sffoodbank.org).

So, when you are doing your Thanksgiving shopping — or, if you are like me and got out of it this year because your wonderful sister-in-law volunteered to do it all! 🙂 — throw a few extra cans in your shopping cart and drop them off at your local food bank.

Don’t think you have one nearby? Wrong. Search here. Or Google and find one near you.

I’m planning to buy what I can with those “points” the supermarket awards this time of year — whatever that gets me, goes to the food bank.

We do this a few times a year, along with some other area unschoolers, and it’s not nearly enough — but it’s something!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nance

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