Nearly 17 million Americans repeatedly short of food

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The number of poor Americans who repeatedly ran short of food shot up by 800,000 in 2011 to nearly 17 million compared with 2010, the U.S. government said on Wednesday.

The Department of Agriculture said in a report that about 5.5 percent of Americans, or nearly 17 million, suffered "very low food security" last year, meaning they had to skip meals or not eat for a day because of a lack of money to buy food. That is a rise of 800,000 over the prior year, it said.

The food-security report was released one day after the government said that a record 46.7 million Americans were enrolled for food stamps in June, up by 173,000 in May.

High unemployment and slow growth since the deep 2008-2009 recession has driven enrollment in food stamps, the major U.S. anti-hunger program, to record levels.

The cost of food aid to the poor is an election-year issue, with Republicans calling for large cuts in food stamps and Medicaid to help reduce the deficit. Democrats say the cuts are too deep.

This year is likely to be even more problematic for hunger prevention because jobless benefits are running out for tens of thousands of long-term unemployed workers, said Jim Weil, head of the anti-hunger group Food Research and Action Center.

The overall food-insecurity rate for individuals was 16.4 percent, almost unchanged since 2008, when it surged to the highest levels since the Agriculture Department began monitoring food security in 1995.

Food-security issues were greatest in the South, in inner cities across the nation, in families with a single parent, in Black and Hispanic households and in households with children.

Mississippi and Arkansas were the states with the highest rate at 19.2 percent, and North Dakota was lowest at 7.8 percent.

Almost everyone who experienced very low food security said they ran short of food and didn't have the money to buy more. Some 97 percent said they cut back on the amount they ate or skipped a meal, while 91 percent said it happened often throughout the year.

Nearly half said they lost weight because they did not have enough to eat, according to the report.

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Craig A. Moore    
Billings, MT  |  September, 06, 2012 at 09:20 AM

"Nearly half said they lost weight because they did not have enough to eat, according to the report." If you aren't getting enough to eat you are going to lose weight. There is a difference between the food stamp people not being able to buy enough food and them buying junk food. I live in a poorer area of town and see many with the food stamp card, you can tell because of the state logo on the credit card, spending a lot on juck food, microwave meals and pop. If they run out of funds before the end of the month and can't buy food it is becasue of them, not the lack of money.

Batavia, NY  |  September, 06, 2012 at 10:24 AM

I am sick of reading garbage like this. How much more do we need to spend on food stamps to make the libs happy? One day I read how the poor do not have enough food and then the next day I read how obese they are and now we need to teach them how to eat correctly. If you are too stupid to feed yourself correctly after I paid for your EBT card, then “I DO NOT CARE”!! Live in the street and fight with the pigeons for scraps. I am tired of feeding these lazy losers and not even receiving a “Thank You” in return. Instead they just keep saying the rich need to give them more. I am not rich and I am sick of feeding them!!!!

Wisconsin  |  September, 06, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Some of those single parent households could double the amount of avaialble food by simply kicking that shiftless boyfriend out the door.

Central PA  |  September, 06, 2012 at 10:35 AM

The Food Security issue will be greater when those who don't know how to fend for themselves get hungry enough to become criminal in their attempts to find food. Will the politicians know what to do then?

Henry Parsons    
MA  |  September, 06, 2012 at 12:41 PM

We can imprison those who become criminal, where they will receive room and board at an expense probably exceeding the price of college costs at leading universities, in addition to their legal expenses. In MA a federal judge just ruled in favor of a sex change operation for an inmate serving a life sentence. It will cost the taxpayers $20,000 for the it might be cheaper to give out food stamps, rather than putting those in prison, who turn crime.

Michael D. Dancer    
Alma, Michigan  |  September, 06, 2012 at 12:48 PM

How many of those people smoke,drink alcohol,have cell phones, play stations,cable tv and other things like that. My father died in 1957 when I was 8 and we lived on 235 dollars a month. We ate and I had clothes on my back and a roof over my head. What I didn't have was the latest fasion and money in my pocket. If I wanted money I took the lawnmower and mowed the neibors yard and had a paper route. The biggest reason people don't have everything is they won't go without luxurys.

Mike Watkins    
Benton Texas  |  September, 06, 2012 at 01:22 PM

These people are singing President Obama's song. He loves to spend money to keep people dependent on the government rather than encouraging them to get off their duffs and be more self reliant. He talks about more jobs, but this really starts at home, not in Washington.

Wisconsin  |  September, 06, 2012 at 02:04 PM

Mr. Watkins, if you ran for public office I would vote for you! Unfortunately your extreme right wing position on this issue may prevent you from being elected after the media tears you to shreds and throws you to the dogs. Sad, but true. It is interesting how crime is seen as the only viable alternative to hunger. What happened to earning something for yourself? "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he can feed his own family" has too many christian overtones to be accepted by a society several generations into government dependency. Bill, you not seeing the obvious here. What would politicians do,....? At least half of them would try to erase the second amendment from the Constitution.

michigan  |  September, 07, 2012 at 09:15 AM

For those of you who have left previous comments, are you critical of the judgment that gets passed on dairy farms based on a few bad apples (runoff, downer cows, lameness)? My family needed government food assistance when I was a child. Now, as a farmer (aka food producer) and mom, I ask that you seek the understanding to refrain from passing judgment based on stereotypes and generalizations. As for 'teaching a man (or woman) to fish', I am thankful that I was able to receive the education in order to fish for myself because college was accessible to me through grants, loans, reasonable tuition rates and college jobs. God bless all of you.

Wisconsin  |  September, 07, 2012 at 11:41 AM

Public assitance was originally intended to provide temporary help to those who have fallen on hard times caused by loss of employment, health issues and other unforseen difficulties. Such things happen to everyone and indeed most would rather never be in need of such assitance. The problem is that these assitance programs were meant to help people for only a few months and in the extreme, a year or two. Not multiple generations. How much help can we give to those who continue to make poor chioces and take own societal generosity for granted? We know that an unwed mother needs help raising her child, but when the number of children goes from one to two to three to five, each with a differnt father, we have an obligation to question the overall benefit of government assistance. Yes, I know someone like that. And we also know that those children stand a much greater chance of repeating the cycle of dependency. It is amazing what people will do to do nothing for themselves. Sadly with base-line budgeting and the political allure of continuing to bring more and more into the wefare system, it is not a stretch of the imagionation that there is a sort of quota in place to keep people poor. Our basic education system does not prepare students for independence anymore. OnFarm, I salute you in your succesful efforts to get away from waiting for the government to help you. You may not have had much to say what help you were provided early in your life, but once you were able to choose for yourself, you broke free. Now as for those who critize us for runoff, downer cows and lameness we have to look at those who judge us. They say they care more then we do but then they loudly condemn the products they refuse to use.

Michael D. Dancer    
Alma, Michigan  |  September, 07, 2012 at 12:24 PM

I am not critical and I am not saying no one needs assistance! I was just saying that people need to use there money wisely! You do not spend money on alcohol, tobacco,cell phones and cable tv if your children and you do not have enough food to eat. Like you OnFarm your family needed help when you were young but you worked hard went to school and made something of yourself. Sometimes that is very hard thing to do but if you want to do you bad enough you can do it. By the way, I hope Milk prices go up so you do not lose your farm. I may be a city boy but I know where my meals come from and I LOVE DAIRY PRODUCTS!!

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