More Americans going hungry

According to a new report released today, 49 million Americans lack adequate access to healthy food. Here’s a clip from the article in the Washington Post:

The number of Americans who lack dependable access to adequate food shot up last year to 49 million, the largest number since the government has been keeping track, according to a federal report released Monday that shows particularly steep increases in food scarcity among families with children.

In 2008, the report found, nearly 17 million children — more than one in five across the United States — were living in households in which food at times ran short, up from slightly more than 12 million youngsters the year before. And the number of children who sometimes were outright hungry rose from nearly 700,000 to almost 1.1 million.

Among people of all ages, nearly 15 percent last year did not consistently have adequate food, compared with about 11 percent in 2007, the greatest deterioration in access to food during a single year in the history of the report…

As this report is based on 2008 data, one imagines that things have only gotten worse since, especially here in metro Detroit, where unemployment is double what it is in the rest of the nation… If you have the ability this winter, please consider making a donation to your local food bank, wherever you might be.

A PDF of the Agriculture Department report, entitled “Household Food Security in the United States, 2008,” can be found here.

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  1. Chelsea
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Nothing to add. Just want to say thanks for addressing this.

  2. Kera
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Information on the SOS Food Pantry can be found here.

  3. Growing Hope
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    As an addendum to this post on food security, I thought that I’d offer up this newsletter we get through the comfood listserv. In you look in the SNAP Shots section, you’ll see an alarming statistic. About 50% of all kids in the US will live in a household using food stamps at some point in their childhood… and for African-American kids, that number is 90%. (Which makes it that much more crucial to accept food stamps at the farmers’ market.)

    Foodlinks America – November 6, 2009

    In this issue:

    ● Fiscal 2010 Funding Still on Hold for Some Programs
    ● SNAP Shots
    ● TEFAP Tidbits
    ● Demographic Trends
    ● Reports from the Field – Toronto, ON, Canada
    ● Small Bites

    Foodlinks America is published 24 times a year by California Emergency Foodlink in Sacramento, CA and distributed by Weinberg & Vauthier Consulting, 122 South Main Street, No. 9, Burnet, TX 78611; Zy Weinberg and Barbara Vauthier, Editors; email:

    Foodlinks America is not copyrighted, so the information can be freely shared with colleagues and friends, though attribution for reprinted articles is appreciated. For archived issues of Foodlinks America, go to: To request a free subscription to the newsletter, submit story ideas, or unsubscribe contact Barbara Vauthier at:

    Fiscal 2010 Funding Still on Hold for Some Programs

    Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) on October 30, 2009 to avoid a government shutdown on November 1, as seven of 13 regular appropriations bills for next year remain unfinished. Legislators extended their deadline until December 18 for completion of fiscal year 2010 spending measures.

    Most nutrition assistance programs are not affected by the CR, as appropriations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the numerous programs it administers was finalized on October 7, 2009. However, funding for nutrition services for seniors remains in limbo, since appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education has yet to be completed.

    Under pending legislation, the Senate has approved $809.743 million for nutrition services under the Administration on Aging, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Senate figure derives from an allocation of $434.269 million for congregate meals, $214.459 million for home-delivered meals (figures that include an additional $97 million for the programs last year provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or stimulus legislation), and $161.015 for USDA’s Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP), which provides a per meal payment to elderly nutrition programs.

    The House has been slightly more generous, providing a total of $829.2 million for all aging nutrition services, $19.4 million above the fiscal year 2009 funding level and the Senate total. The differences are expected to be worked out by a House-Senate conference committee in the coming weeks.

    SNAP Shots

    Participation stays on an upward trajectory: Nationwide enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps reached a new record high in August 2009 when 36,491,920 people received benefits. The total reflected an increase of more than 640,000 from July 2009.

    The State of Nevada reported an enormous caseload increase of 53.1 percent between August 2008 and August of this year. Four other states experienced caseload growth of 40 percent or more during the same period. They were: Washington (47.9 percent); Utah (47.3 percent); Idaho (44.3 percent); and Florida (41.3 percent). Another 11 states underwent caseload growth in the 30 percent range.

    “The number of people participating in SNAP/Food Stamps in August 2009 was nearly 20 million more persons than in August 2000, when program participation nationally reached its lowest point in the last decade (16.8 million individuals),” according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) in Washington, D.C.

    Half of all children get food stamps: Nearly half (49.2 percent) of all children in the U.S. will be aided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps at some time during their childhood, according to a new study of 4,800 American households over a 30-year period. And approximately 90 percent of African American children live in households using food stamps at some point in their childhood years.

    “This is what children can expect over a period of time, not just during a recession,” said Mark Rank, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis, who led the study, which was published in the November 2009 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. “It shows that the period of childhood, rather than a period of safety and security, is really a time for a lot of kids of economic turmoil and risk,” he added.

    Future food stamp usage rates are expected to climb even higher with this year’s economic downturn. “The current recession is likely to generate for children in the United States the greatest material deprivation that we will see in our professional lifetimes,” commented Dr. Paul Wise, a Stanford University pediatrician. “This is a real danger sign that we as a society need to do a lot more to protect children,” agreed Mark Rank.

    Food stamp usage this widespread should not be stigmatized, Rank said. “Your neighbor may be using some of these programs but it’s not the kind of thing people want to talk about,” he noted. On the other hand, “What I hope comes out of this study,” said James Weill, president of FRAC, “is an understanding that food stamp beneficiaries aren’t them – they’re us.”

    To review the study, go to:

    TEFAP Tidbits

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a memorandum on October 23, 2009 providing detailed information on food and administrative funds and conversion between the two for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in fiscal year 2010. Specifically, the memo addresses the following topics:

    Funds for food: USDA confirmed that due to recent decreases in food prices, mandatory funds for TEFAP food purchases this fiscal year will drop to $248 million from $250 million last year. Of that amount, an estimated $2.4 million is needed for ordering and transporting the food, leaving approximately $245.6 million for the actual purchase of food.

    Funding conversions: In previous years, USDA has allowed states to convert up to $10 million in food funds for storage and distribution or administration. This year, appropriations language has changed the $10 million ceiling into 10 percent, making up to $24.8 million available for conversions. States have until April 2, 2010 to let USDA know if they want to convert any portion of their share of the $24.8 million as food funds, storage and distribution funds, or any combination of the two.

    A dairy bonanza: The fiscal year 2010 agriculture appropriations act authorized USDA to purchase an additional $60 million of cheese and other dairy products for TEFAP. These funds are in addition to the $248 million mentioned above. They, however, are not convertible.

    Administrative funding: Congress appropriated $49.5 million for TEFAP storage and distribution (or administration) in fiscal year 2010. States are allowed to convert any portion of those administrative funds for food, if they inform USDA by June 4, 2010. Another $50 million for TEFAP administration was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) or economic stimulus package, with $25 million available last year and an equal amount available this year. ARRA funds are not convertible.

    The October 23 memo provides allocations by state for all these elements of TEFAP. It may be viewed available at:

    Demographic Trends

    Food spending drops for lower-income households: Between 2000 and 2007, median spending on food by American households decreased by 12 percent relative to the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), the government’s meal plan for food stamp participants, and by six percent relative to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) though both the TFP and CPI were rising at the time. During the same period, the national prevalence of “very low food insecurity” – government-speak for “hunger” – increased by nearly a third, from 3.1 percent of all households in 2000 to 4.1 percent in 2007.

    Lower and middle-income households in the second lowest income quintile of the population experienced the largest declines in food spending, as priorities shifted. Those households’ drop in food spending “was accompanied by increases in spending for housing,” according to study results from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). To learn more, go to:

    If they had money, would they buy them?: Another recent study by USDA found that reduced prices have little effect on fruit and vegetable consumption by low-income households in the U.S. Even retail price discounts of up to 20 percent on fresh produce only increased consumption by around five percent at best and still did not bring study subjects within range of the recommended number of fruit and vegetable servings in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Additional details may be found at:

    Number of Indian farms rising: The number of American Indian farmers in the U.S. increased by 88 percent between 20000 and 2007, and there are now more than 80,000 Indians working the land. Indian and Native American farms total nearly 50 million acres, though sales derived from them – an average of $40,331 per year – and average acreage, at 1,431 acres, are smaller than for all farmers.

    USDA officials met with more than 100 American Indian leaders on November 4, 2009 in Washington, D.C. in advance of the White House Tribal Nations Conference. “Tribal producers can play key roles in building local production and can be an important engine of economic development in tribal communities,” acknowledged USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. For further information, see:!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB/.cmd/ad/.ar/sa.retrievecontent/.c/6_2_1UH/.ce/7_2_5JM/.p/5_2_4TQ/.d/0/_th/J_2_9D/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?PC_7_2_5JM_contentid=2009%2F11%2F0552.xml&PC_7_2_5JM_parentnav=LATEST_RELEASES&PC_7_2_5JM_navid=NEWS_RELEASE#7_2_5JM.

    Reports from the Field – Toronto, ON, Canada

    Things are looking up for green rooftops, as people are finding more places to grow plants – including fruits and vegetables – in cities. The following article, written by Wayne Roberts, project coordinator of the Toronto Food Policy Council, appeared in the October 29 – November 4, 2009 issue of NOW Magazine under the title, “Will There Be A Rooftop Wedding of Urban Ag and Sustainable Urban Design?”

    Cities Alive, the first world congress of green roofers held in Toronto, put me a little over the top, so as chair of the October 19 session on urban agriculture, I opened the event as if it were a wedding ceremony. Dearly beloved, I intoned, and went the whole nine yards on Sustainable Urban Design and Sustainable Urban Food Production being joined together.

    I made a big miscalculation about the couple, who are really just newly-mets. City farmers are the new kids on the rooftop, and panelist Debbie Field of FoodShare tells a hundred people at a conference room at the Sheraton that almost no-one is seriously growing food in Toronto yet, notwithstanding the city’s acclaimed green roof bylaw.

    The pioneering work on green roofs – an exciting trend in building architecture, landscaping and engineering that accounts for about the same two to five per cent market share of buildings as organic sales account for in food stores – has been done by visionaries who want to shout from the rooftops about reimagining the sights, sounds, textures and life cycles of the city. To this point in time, food production has not risen to the top of mind of the premier designers and builders; unlike most people in the food sector, these builders have already learned to innovate by cooperating along the breadth and across the breadth of the entire supply chain.

    But connecting the dots will be exciting.

    The session just before mine was led off by California “starchitect” Paul Kephart from the firm Rana Creek Habitat Restoration and Living Architecture. Finding natural ways to manage rainwater flow in an ocean-side but water-deprived city like San Francisco has to become a crucial function of buildings, he says, so the idea is to “lift up the park and put a structure under it.” Roofing becomes the first, not the afterthought, of green builders.

    Kephart’s prize work atop a Frisco train terminal is a gigantic wetlands, that, as in nature, performs a variety of cleansing functions, starting with the exhaust fumes that bubble up and are purified by wetland plants and sunlight. All the rain that falls on the building, as well as all the water raised up from building air conditioners, is cleaned to perform all the non-drinking water functions – from toilets to floor-washing, which use up drinking-quality water piped in from miles away in conventional buildings.

    Nigel Dunnett, director of the Green Roof Centre in Sheffield, England, shows off the rooftop equivalent of the full monte – the world’s first nature reserve in a city, offering the same range of and protection to bio-diversity as in a countryside park. In England, he says, green roofs are about storing carbon to prevent global warming and preserving bio-diversity from the trend to species extinction.

    From Chicago came Jeffrey Bruce, designer of the largest green roof in the world, the monumental 24.5 acre Millenium Park atop a carpark and train station. There’s nothing flat about this roof, which features a dozen happenings, from skating rink, outdoor theatre and café to open meadow and wetland.

    For those who worry about the economics of green infrastructure projects, Bruce does some quick calculations on the return on investment for the $475 million put into the pot by city government and private donors. It’s a top city attraction drawing as many as four million visitors a year. Those who pay to park their car below the rooftop park repay the city bond taken out to finance the greenery, while nearby residents in the hottest real estate zone in North America repay the city through residential taxes and the spillover from $1.4 billion in recent construction. The city also rents the entire roof out for corporate special events at $800,000 a day. The green view from on high includes 59 million litres of stormwater kept out of sewers and a thousand tons worth of evaporative cooling shared over the downtown during steaming days of summer.

    Make no small plans, says Bruce, quoting one of Chicago’s historic architects, Daniel Burnham.

    Meanwhile, people in the urban agriculture session I chaired are thinking about just getting off the ground, and are trying to avoid the temptation of making big plans before the basics have been mastered.

    It turns out that not all walls can bear the extra load of soil, especially the box stores thrown up for the lowest price to move discounted goods. There are also security and safety issues with having so many people on roofs, issues that planners are still wrestling with.

    You also need to know the particulars of the climate you’re dealing with, says Daniel Roehr of University of British Columbia’s Greenskin Lab. Tokyo and Hong Kong have enough rain during the growing season to feed food gardens, but Vancouver doesn’t. Crops also matter. Medicinal plants grow well on roofs, but many conventional crops find the rooftop weather too volatile, he says.

    We need to design new buildings that “are congenial to and interactive with food production,” says Mark Gargolewski of Toronto’s Ryerson University, one of the organizers of the popular Carrot City exhibit now touring the world. Designing buildings with an eye to re-using washwater for irrigation and re-using composted food scraps and humanure for soil fertility are examples of such adaptations.

    George Irwin, head of Green Living Technologies based in Rochester, New York, is a veteran landscaper who learned about food production when his children planted seeds in some see-through walls he used as energy-saving exteriors to main walls; the seeds took and his new career in “green walls and vertical agriculture” was born, growing food on walls that, like roofs, had been wasted and overlooked before, and just left to stand there.

    “Why bring the food to the city when you can bring the entire farm,” Irwin asks, with a zesty personal style that’s always looking up. No marriage yet between urban ag and the new urban design, but my inner matchmaker tells me it won’t be long before they’re living together.

  4. Ted
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Why are we even having this conversation when we have the technology to grow meat in a lab?

  5. dp in ypsi
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I was recently at a forum put on by the Michigan Business & Professional Association. They are slightly more useful than the Chamber of Commerce because they at least offer the group Blue Cross discount to their members. Anyway, they sponsored a “health care” forum for their members at a swanky country club in Dearborn. Rep. Mike Rogers and Rep. Pete Hokestra (also running for Governor) were there to talk about health care reform in the Congress and their attempts to block… well you know the talking points.

    When time came for Q&A, I noted that I have MS and the drugs that let me walk and be mostly normal are $2400 a month without insurance. I explained that I work for a small business that is not covered under COBRA, and gave other info that explained how it was impossible for me to get coverage with an individual health insurance policy in MI unless I’m employed and on a group policy. I asked how Rep. Rogers alternative plan would address the hundreds of thousands of people like me in MI that fall through the cracks when circumstances leave us unemployed. I also asked why a single-payer system would be so bad if as a society we could shift the baseline from the crisis mentality we operate in now, to one where everyone had baseline coverage that could be more affordable than what we spend now.

    Their tag team response was that I should not demonize the profits of the health insurance industry. Rep. Hokestra then said that if we demonized the profits of the health insurance industry, then we might move to the food industry. He went further to say that millions of people go hungry in America every day and nobody attacks the food industry for profiting off the sale of food.

    I’m not a proponent of a socialized state, but I do think that FDR was on to something when he suggested that all Americans should have adequate health care, shelter, food, education, a job, and never live in poverty. We are innovative enough as a society to figure out how to do this without degenerating into a communist government.

    I’m tired of politicians who think that large sections of society need to suffer so that private and massive “not-for-profit” corporations (that are run like for-profit businesses) can make a 4% profit instead of a 3% profit. For the insurance industry this seeming small % is that of $2 trillion… it’s a lot of money, folks.

    Rep. Dingell was invited to this event, but sent a ra-ra fluff letter in-lieu of showing up. Dingell has failed at meaningful health reform for over 50 years, the folks who were starving back when Kennedy announced a war on poverty… well they are still starving today, in fact there are more of the starving folks now than then; Dingell has been in the same seat for the entire time.

    Accountability (lack there-of) for these elected types has been noted on a number of posts. I’m fed up and am strongly considering running for state house as an Independent in 2010. I have almost no faith that anything positive will change as relates to poverty, food security and meaningful health care reform unless new people engage the process. It would be great to have other independents to vote for running for State Senate, Governor, and US House, even in local elections. Please contact me if you are interested in building a robust campaign to defeat the destructive and often unquestioned political inertia of the Democrat Party. Not because you are a Republican, but because you are among the majority of Americans who do not identify with either of the two parties and want a real voice in the process.

  6. Robert
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    If you loved America, you wouldn’t be pointing these things out, Mark.

  7. Peter Larson
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    “He went further to say that millions of people go hungry in America every day and nobody attacks the food industry for profiting off the sale of food.”

    People certainly do attack the food industry, specifically retailers for failing to adequately invest in low income communities. I know that a couple of years ago, the city of Detroit did not have a single major food retailer and instead had to either cross 8 mile to buy food or buy expired potato chips and macaroni and cheese from a liquor store/market. They may or may not have one now, but I think this speaks loud and clear as to the failings of the corporate retail food industry when it does not even attempt to provide even a minimum of services to a willing groups of customers.

  8. Sharls
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    This is nothing compared to the number of Americans who go to bed horny each night. We need to think of them as well.

  9. dp in ypsi
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you, Peter. The disconnect between our “Representatives” and reality is pretty intense.

  10. Posted November 29, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    1 in 8 Americans, 1 in 4 children, are now on food stamps.

  11. Peter Larson
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 7:23 am | Permalink


  12. Chris
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    If we just allowed children to work, they would have the money to buy food. We need to let the open market solve this.

  13. Brackinald Achery
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    It never fails that big government failures are used to justify big government, even in the midst of big government itself failing.

  14. Billy LaLonde
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Hey Brack, Big government is just trying to re-invent itself as the the Champion Of The Hungry. I think they are getting pretty good at getting America to eat shit everyday! Now, if I could just do something about the foul taste…hmmm…maybe some more catsup.

  15. Francis Coil
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I came here looking for a quote on yacht Insurance. Imagine my surprise.

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