‘Food insecurity’ in the land of the plenty: Food and politics & the 2012 elections

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John Verlinden Photo by: Eric Hess

By: John Verlinden/TRT Cuisine Writer–

“Food insecurity.” Sounds like that anxious moment you feel when deciding what wine to order with dinner. Unfortunately, it’s much more serious. “Food insecurity” is how the government defines a condition where many Americans find themselves: not knowing where they’ll find their next meal.

I wonder if we chose this squishy label because we just can’t bear the thought that, in our rich country, people are hungry. It is disturbing that hunger persists side by side with a food supply so abundant that we throw tons away every day just because we can’t eat it fast enough. In 2010 the USDA reported that 48.8 million people lived in food-insecure households, or about one in every six Americans. For children the rate is higher, at 22 percent of all kids.

Historically, we’ve dealt with hunger issues reasonably effectively through a combination of government and nonprofit programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and School Lunch Programs are the big public programs, while food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters fill in gaps and shore up weak spots in our food safety net.

But how to address hunger issues in the future will certainly be an election-year issue. What do you think government’s role should be? Some people believe that as a society we’re obliged to provide, and that every individual in the U.S. should have access to an adequate supply of food. Others feel that government is already doing too much, needs to cut back and tighten up eligibility standards. Some believe that the government should continue food programs, but should impose restrictions on what can and cannot be purchased with public dollars (e.g. no soda, no high-calorie snacks, no sugary cereals). And still others believe that government should get out of this business altogether and leave caring for the poor to churches and private charities.

Where do you stand on these and other hunger issues? And what do you want from the candidates you will support?
Next month we’ll take a look at obesity and actions we might take to reduce it. Share your thoughts, ask a question or suggest a topic for a future article. Contact me: john@muchogusto.com or visit  www.muchogusto.com and join our food forum.
Until next time – ¡Mucho Gusto!, ¡Muchas Gracias! y ¡Buen Provecho!