Podcast: Food Insecurity

January 19, 2010

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In this podcast, we will discuss how food insecurity affects families living near the poverty line. I’m Keri Fulton and I’m joined by Stacy Dean, the Center’s Director of Food Assistance Policy.

1. Stacy, what does the term “food insecurity” mean?

Food insecurity is what occurs when families lack the resources they need to get enough nutritious food to thrive. Each year, the Census Bureau and USDA measure the level of food insecurity and in 2008, we had 17 million households in this country who did not have regular access to enough food throughout the year.

2. Why can’t these families access enough food?

Well, the main reason people don’t have enough food is because they don’t have enough money to buy food. This might be because their income is too low. Or, it might be that after they cover essential household expenses like rent or medicines that there just isn’t enough money to buy food for the whole family.

3. How has the Food Stamp Program affected food insecurity?

Food stamps have absolutely lessened the severity of hunger in America. It accomplishes this by helping low-income Americans to afford a nutritionally adequate diet. As of October 38 million Americans, or 1 in 8 in our country, were participating in this program.

4. Is providing food stamps the best way to solve hunger in this country?

No, a thriving economy with well-paying jobs has and will continue to be the most effective long-term weapon against hunger. We need jobs that offer economic security so that families can provide for themselves.

Of course, we know there are times when there aren’t enough jobs or when wages won't be enough to support a family. And, there are people who may not be able to support themselves through work such as seniors or individuals with disabilities. Having a safety net that helps families meet their basic needs, including food, is a critical means to addressing hunger.

5. What are other ways in which we can address hunger?

Well we can strengthen the safety net. A good example is the health care debate that’s going on right now. Millions of Americans currently don’t have insurance and health care costs for the uninsured are a huge drain on the family budget. When people have to divert their limited income to pay for doctor’s visits or for their prescriptions, it can also mean that they can’t afford other expenses, like food.

6. The President has said that one of his policy goals is to end childhood hunger by 2015. Is the Administration making progress on this goal?

Due to the economic downturn, the problem of food insecurity in our country has most certainly gotten worse. So, the Administration has a bigger challenge to address. But, they have taken some very strong steps to work towards their goal. The economic recovery legislation bolstered unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs that help struggling families. And, as I’ve already mentioned, expanding health coverage to low-income Americans should play an important role in addressing hunger.

7. Where can listeners go for more information?

I’d encourage listeners to take a look at a document that The National Anti-Hunger Organizations (which the Center is one of) published called the Roadmap to End Child Hunger in America by 2015. The document recommends nine steps that will collectively eliminate child hunger in the U.S.

That’s at hungersolutions.org. Thank you for joining me, Stacy.

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