Recently I saw the new documentary on the food situation in America called ¨A Place at the Table¨. Its main message was to show how big the problem of food insecurity is in the USA. It is not a new topic, however any person willing to get an answer to the question, why so many of the richest country citizens every day have to think where the next meal will come from, will want to see it.
I think the moment that hit me most was when Jeff Bridges (Actor and Hunger Activisit) was talking about a movie he produced in 1996 ¨Hidden in America¨. It is a story of a family struggling everyday to get food. As Suzuki’s speech from 1990 still stayed fresh, so did the story told in this movie. And maybe, the situation is even worse.
In 1996 there was about 35 million Americans living below the poverty line. Now, 1 in 7 Americans may be feeling hungry every single day, which accounts for 50 million Americans. It is more than the population of my country, Poland (38 million)!!! Many people think that it is because there is not enough food (an opinion favored by the big agro businesses). On the other hand America is net exporter of food according to FAOSTATS (more than 50% of products made in America are exported) and is the country with one of the highest rates of food waste in the world (approx. 50%). Why is in then that a country with so much income per person a year is on the last place on the ranking: the most food secure country in the OECD?
There is no one right answer. During Nixon´s presidency the US government has initialized many projects and increased the Food Stamps budget, in order to end the problem of hunger forever. And it was working very well. Unfortunately, Regan’s office thought that the government shouldn’t deal with such problems and more space should be left to charities. So they did and now the results are shocking. The statistics show that 1 in 2 children in America will have some experience with hunger and food insecurity.
The problem of food insecurity is obvious. There is also another side of the coin, which is probably even worse for both, the society and the government. Because of the poorly managed food system the poorest Americans cannot afford healthy food. A bag of chips can cost 0.30$, while a pound of apples costs 2.30$. These examples are of course almost unlimited. This is a result of the US Department of Agriculture subsidies policy. 84% of subsidies go for such as produce: corn, cotton, wheat, soy and rice but only 1% is devoted to fruits and vegetables. Because of such policy in the past 20 years prices of processed food went amazingly down and relatively prices of fruits and vegetables went up. That means that an average American is more likely to choose chips over more expensive apples.
You know exactly where this is going. Health issues related to malnutrition, hunger or food insecurity cost the government over $ 165 billion per year, which still is only a fraction of what is spend on military. As a final comment I will pass on a quote by Jeff Bridges: ¨The government wouldn´t like to have their defense issues solved by charity, because they know it doesn´t work that way.¨
1. A Place at the Table – http://www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table
Posted by Piotr Wielezynski