Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hunger in the United States of America

by M. J. Joachim

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “Falling unemployment from early post-recession (2009-10) to 2012, absent any other changes, would suggest a modest decline in the prevalence of food insecurity. However, this report finds that potential improvement was almost exactly offset by the effects of higher inflation and the higher relative price of food in 2012.”

The title of the report, Prevalence of U.S. Food Insecurity Is Related to Changes in Unemployment, Inflation, and the Price of Food speaks for itself.

American citizens have basic needs. When food prices rise at a rate beyond our needs to meet them, because income levels don’t rise accordingly, people in America do without, oftentimes going hungry.

According to the report, “The price of food relative to the price of all goods and services was 4.37 percentage points higher in 2012 than in 2005-07, and this factor is estimated to have increased the prevalence of food insecurity by 2.55 percentage points. Changes in those two factors were partially offset by a lower rate of CPI inflation in 2012, which is estimated to have reduced the prevalence of food insecurity by 0.51 percentage point. Given the changes in these three factors, the prevalences of food insecurity was predicted to be 3.73 percentage points higher in 2012 than in 2005-07 - slightly more than the observed increase of 3.49 percentage points.”

So for all our individual efforts, the price of food still weighs us down, causing many in the United States to eat (junk food - it’s cheaper), not enough food or go without food altogether. Even though employment rates and incomes appear to be on the rise in the U.S. since the recent recession, these increases are not keeping up with the increasing rise of food prices.

The US Government calls it food insecurity. Effectively Human calls it people going hungry in the United States of America. Regardless of what you call it or why it is so prevalent today, our government and its citizens need to come together and take action to address the problem of people going hungry here. 

“Some people think that rising food prices are a good sign because historically this has meant the economy is in recovery. But that isn't necessarily true anymore. Rising prices in the U.S. are less driven by the economy here and more driven by the economic recovery and growth elsewhere. The result is a slowly recovering economy in the U.S but higher inflation than usual.” (Forbes Magazine)

Biofuels play a contributing role in higher food prices. “The primary impact of biofuels on food inflation is from increases in the farm prices of commodities that contribute to producing our food supply, like corn, soybean meal, soybean oil, wheat, barley, and oats.” (Purdue Extension University)

US Bureau of Labor and Statistics
Consumer Price Index Data for October 2014

The food index rose 0.1 percent in October, its smallest increase since June. The index for food at home also rose 0.1 percent, with four of the six major grocery store food groups posting increases. The fruits and vegetables index rose the most, increasing 0.9 percent in October after rising 0.1 percent in September. The index for nonalcoholic beverages rose 0.6 percent, its largest increase since September 2012. The index for dairy and related products increased 0.5 percent, and the cereals and bakery products index rose 0.3 percent. In contrast to these increases, the index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs, which had been rising sharply in recent months, declined 0.4 percent. The beef and veal index rose 0.3 percent, but the indexes for pork, poultry, and eggs all declined. The index for other food at home also fell 0.4 percent in October. The index for food at home has risen 3.3 percent over the last 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since April 2012. All six major grocery store food groups increased over the span. The index for food away from home rose 0.2 percent in October and has increased 2.8 percent over the last 12 months.

We’re paying more, but we’re not necessarily earning enough to keep up with food inflation prices. It’s not about pointing fingers at this point, but about doing what we can to help our neighbors in need, reaching out and filling those food bank shelves. Feed America makes it easy to find a local food bank near you. 

This post is part of 2nd Annual Holiday Food Drive taking place everywhere online. I hope and encourage you to join us. Even if all you can do is promote a link, that’s still raising awareness and helping to make a difference, one that might help a hungry person in need. Thank you!

M. J.


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