Estados Unidos

Hunger in the United States

The New York Times, Editorial, November 17, 2009

Informe del gobierno

25% de los niños estadounidenses
pasaron hambre el año pasado

Democracy Now!, 17/11/09

Nuevos datos gubernamentales indican que casi 50 millones de estadounidenses (incluido el 25% de los niños) tuvieron dificultades para obtener lo suficiente para comer. El Departamento de Agricultura llegó a la conclusión de que casi 17 millones de niños pertenecen a hogares en los que escasearon los alimentos el año pasado, es decir, cuatro millones más que el año anterior. Los datos del gobierno han causado sorpresa incluso a los activistas contra la pobreza. Vicki Escara, presidenta de la organización de beneficencia Feeding America, declaró: ‘Esto es inconcebible. Es como si viviéramos en un país del Tercer Mundo’. La cantidad total de estadounidenses que pasan hambre probablemente sea mayor. El informe se basa en datos de 2008, cuando la tasa de desempleo alcanzó un pico de 7,2 %. Desde entonces, dicha tasa se elevó a más del 10%”.

Congress should make a priority of expanding federal nutrition programs that are aimed at helping millions of struggling families feed their children. The need to bolster these programs was underscored again this week in a dismaying Department of Agriculture study showing that a record number of households had trouble getting sufficient food at one time or another last year.

These facts are troubling enough, but a separate federal study showed that even before the recession began, more than two-thirds of families with children who were defined as "food insecure" under federal guidelines contained one or more full-time worker. This suggests that millions of Americans were trapped in low-wage jobs before the downturn that made it more difficult for them to provide children with adequate nutrition.

Families were categorized as "food secure" or "food insecure" based how they answered several questions on their eating habits during the previous 12 months. Among other things, adults were asked whether they or any of their children had ever forgone eating for an entire day because the family lacked money for food.

According to the new federal data, the number of people in households that lacked consistent access to adequate nutrition rose to 49 million in 2008, 13 million more than in the previous year and the most since the federal government began keeping the data 14 years ago.

About a third of struggling households had what the researchers called "very low food security," meaning that members of the household skipped meals, cut portions or passed on food at some point during the year because they lacked money. The other two-thirds managed to feed themselves by eating cheaper or less varied foods, relying on government aid like food stamps or resorting to food pantries and soup kitchens, which have been seeing heavier and heavier traffic in recent years.

Families with inadequate resources typically feed the children first, shielding them from hardship as much as possible. But the new data showed that the number of households in which children were exposed to "very low food security" rose to 506,000 from 323,000 in 2007.

The Bush administration tried to deep-six this annual survey. But President Obama has dealt with it openly and called the danger to children especially troubling.

Mr. Obama, who is traveling in Asia, has set himself the task of wiping out child hunger by 2015. To do that, Congress needs to get busy on a broad plan to expand and fully pay for a whole range of nutritional programs aimed at school-age children and their families. Only then will vulnerable children across the country get the nutrition they need.