January 03, 2012

Think again

Originally published in ‘Tis The Season, an independent supplement to the Chicago Sun-Times.

by Abby J. Leibman
President & CEO, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
December 23, 2011

As an advocate, I often spend my days in a state of outrage. I am buffeted by chilling statistics, the devastating experiences of families in need and the grindingly slow response by policymakers to those needs. I am also regularly stunned by the assumptions made about who is hungry in America, why they are hungry and what it will take to address hunger in America. There are 50 million Americans who aren’t sure if or when they’ll have their next meal. That’s a documented fact—a painful, challenging fact. But beyond recognizing that it is an astronomically high number, how much do we really understand about that fact?

If you think hungry people are just the inherently lazy and irresponsible, think again.
The spike in the number of hungry Americans comes substantially from those who’ve lost their jobs as a result of our struggling economy. The nation’s unemployment rate continues to hover around nine percent, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May that the number of people who were unemployed for more than 52 weeks before being hired again in 2010 was nearly triple that of 2007.

If you think government programs enable needy people to live well on our tax dollars, think again.
SNAP provides about $1.40 per person per meal. SNAP is designed only to ensure that people receive some basic sustenance so they can contribute back to society and get off the program.

If you think hunger exists because we don’t have enough food, think again.
There’s enough wheat, rice, and other grains produced globally to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day—that’s 75 percent more calories per person than are recommended in the USDA’s Nutritional Guidelines. Hunger persists in this country not because of a lack of food, but an absence of political will to solve the problem.

If you think our national predicament is reprehensible, then take action. We must all practice and promote a holistic approach to ending hunger in America—providing nutritious food to those in need today, and working to develop and advance long-term solutions so that no one need go hungry tomorrow. The time to end hunger in America is now. We urge you to join our fight.