Food Insecurity: Reprioritizing Poverty

It's an unnerving thought to honestly wonder if you will eat today.  There are few necessities as basic, but a new study by Feeding America called, "Map the Meal Gap:  Child Food Insecurity 2011" highlights a fundamental problem with our understanding of poverty:  nearly 22 percent of children in America are dealing with hunger.

Just over 14 percent of Americans, as of the last Census investigation, are considered below the poverty threshold.  By the common, public conception it follows that roughly 14 percent of Americans would struggle to put food on the table.  It's just not that simple.

Parents with annual incomes that just exceed the poverty threshold are in a position where reliable meals are a luxury they cannot afford.  People simply don't know if or when their next meal will come (i.e. food insecurity).  What's worse is that in Concord County, CA, for example, the cost of living is high enough that many children living there who are facing hunger aren't eligible for the majority of federal nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program.

This area of economic limbo is where many Americans are currently finding themselves.  They make just enough money to keep their heads above the murky waters of mortgages, credit debt, loan payments, and job scarcity, while not having enough to feed every member of their family every day. But the fact that their income is above a certain level, they are left entirely to their own devices:  basically a choice between keeping a roof over their heads and eating every day.

Because the food banks are working at full capacity and are struggling to help everyone in need, we cannot rely on our current methodology to remedy this problem.  There should some serious thought and eventual legislation (hopefully sooner than later) necessary regarding our legal understanding of poverty.  Maybe our focus should be less on income and more on whether or not people's needs are being met, at least if we can quantify such data.  Nevertheless, our collective eye is opening and action must follow.

Have you helped out your local food bank lately?

Photo: Brit.