Starvation, American Style

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
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Fifty million Americans are “food insecure,” meaning they literally don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Half of all U.S. children need food assistance at some time.

Rep. Lois Capps and actor Jeff Bridges presented the film A Place at the Table Saturday night, March 23, in Santa Barbara to highlight this reality.

The film mixes appalling statistics with the actual lives, up close, of real American families struggling to eat. And most of these families are working families.

What many forget is that U.S. hunger was once almost eliminated. By President Nixon, following the CBS Reports program Hunger in America in 1968. We know how.

President Reagan made deep cuts in Nixon’s successful programs. His answer: Charity. The result: Tens of millions of hungry Americans.

When this author was a child, subsidized school lunches were available to all. Reagan forced children to show “need” by presenting a humiliating ID card at each meal.

Kathleen de Chadenedes of the Orfalea Foundation’s local School Food Initiative explained that the resulting bureaucracy is not just humiliating for children. It is also wasteful. It’s as cheap to provide the meals to everyone.

Stuffed and Starved author Raj Patel explained how hunger and obesity go together. Because of subsidies for corn and wheat, it is ten times cheaper to get calories from junk food like chips than from wholesome fruits and vegetables.

And 23% of Americans live in “food deserts” with no fruits or vegetables at all. The average food stamp allocation is just $3/day. Survival means junk food.

And we meet working families that do not qualify for food stamps because they “make too much.” We meet Rosie, who cannot focus in school because her stomach is always growling. Her teacher brings her Food Bank bags, but they contain mostly starch and sugar.

Barbie Izquierdo is in tears because she cannot offer her children basic food even though she is working full time. She was part of a group featured in the film that went to Congress to ask for an increase in school lunch funding. Experts explain that child malnutrition costs the United States far more than feeding them properly would cost. Malnutrition in the first five years causes permanent brain damage.

More than 25% of children would not qualify for military service now because of bad nutrition. Ironically, military readiness was why President Truman started the school lunch program.

The Republican Congress grudgingly increased school lunch funding by six cents a meal. (The typical school meal has just 95 cents of food.) But they took half of that money from Food Stamps, meaning the children will just be hungrier when they go home.

But the underlying facts are even more pervasive: While top incomes have soared in recent decades, working poor wages have actually dropped.

Conservative Republican President Nixon talked about the need for full employment and food for all. Now, his views are too liberal for even the Democratic Party. That is how far this country has changed. The result is both malnutrition and obesity.

There is no shortage of wholesome food in America. Just a shortage of economic justice.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Conservative Republican President Nixon, his views then are too liberal for even the Democratic Party NOW?
Wow go figure!

dou4now (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 5:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Last time I checked, we had a Democratic president and a Democratically controlled Senate. Oh wait, this isn't about food, this is about politics, isn't it?

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 6:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"The result is both malnutrition and obesity."
Funny how the more government intrudes, the more people accept and want the intrusion. My goodness, how did people manage to survive in this country for 200 years before the mega nanny state?
I think we need some good old fashion Soviet style food lines; hell we're feeding 3 meals a day to a ton of school kids now because their parents are too lazy and worthless to pack'em some food; let's go whole hog.
Oh yea, objective starvation has been eradicated in this country; we now have new categories like under nourishment etc.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 7:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Great piece Robert.

Botany, last I checked the House is controlled by Republicans and the Senate is not filibuster-proof. Ergo: not much of Obama's agenda is getting through Congress nowadays.

That said, I don't know what Obama's anti-hunger agenda is. Robert, can you shed some light?

TamHunt (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 9:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hilarious that people still call Obama a liberal. What has he done that Bush wouldn't or didn't?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 11:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Apparently some don't understand working minimum wage and trying to feed yourself, let alone a child. But there is plenty for the war machine/effort (corporations) and not enough for those who did the service. Yes it's political, but it's all of them, as the article states at the end.

spacey (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 1:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am "pants insecure" today. Very disconcerting and troubling to my self esteem.
Yea KV, we agree again; when the Dem's held sway they did not do anything...except for blaming the Repub's.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 1:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well yes, of course. Richard blames Reagan even though Reagan had a liberal congress to deal with. Richard doesn't blame Obama because he had a conservative congress to deal with. No double standard here!

The Democrats of today are not the same as when Harry Truman was in office. The motto for today's Democrats is "The buck stops with the other party".

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 3:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Reagan did have to deal with a Democratic majority in the House, as does Obama have to contend with a Republican-lead House.

The point you make, "Botany," may not be the one you hope for; Reagan's initiatives didn't face the type of obstruction -- particularly via threat of filibuster, a keen indication of Congressional amiability.

One stat, that of the number of cloture motions filed, is representative:

- Reagan's Senate had a total of 167, over 8 years.
- Obama's Senate filed 252 in 4 years.

And remember cloture filings are not all the filibusters enacted, simply those of which the Majority reacted to; many filibuster threats go unopposed because of vote counts and a relative lack of importance of the issue vs. the time involved in fighting a filibuster.

It has become a tyranny of the minority.

binky (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 4:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Even funnier is that we are even discussing Reagan and Nixon as having anything to do with the non issue of being "food insecure".
Personally, I think it's more of a George Washington problem for being the "father" of this insidious and long lasting democracy...if only the British had kicked our butts...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 4:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I blame Millard Fillmore.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 5:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I blame Mallard Fillmore.

The point the author raises about Food Deserts is one that needs to be brought to light and discussed more. Yes indeed, poor, fat kids, but nonetheless, malnourished and often diabetic.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 7:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This reminds me of a documentary I saw about Japan's successfull subsidized school lunch program:

Non-ideological food for thought.

As for my opinion, I would rather trust my kids' school lunches to pre-Reagan lunch programs than the lunch items foisted upon schools these days by private companies who only care about profit. The margins on soda and Cheetos are very high. In fact, when cups are used to serve soda, the cups cost more than the soda itself.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 9:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I recently saw a guy in Santa Barbara with a sign that said:

"Will Work for Food".

I have some small bushes in my back yard that needed trimming.
Honestly, only about 10-15 minutes of work.

So I said that I would give him a hot meal at my home,
and in addition, that I would give him $50, if he could
trim a bush, explaining that it was really about a 10 min job.

That's pretty good money - about $200/hr.
but I can afford the 50 bucks, and I hate yard work.

He not only flipped me off, but said "f-you".

Having had so many of these experiences, I challenge the people of Santa Barbara to take the "Santa Barbara Challenge".

The "Santa Barbara Challenge" goes like this:

Find someone with "will work for food" sign, and do what I did.

Then come back, and post your results here.
I think this would raise public awareness of the problem.

With food stamps at an all-time historical high in a rich country, I find it hard to believe that people are going hungry.

I find it very easy to see the fraud that is right before my eyes, in my own back yard.

I've watched this guy. He makes more than $200/hr panhandling.
No wonder he told me to f-off.

nobody123 (anonymous profile)
April 1, 2013 at 3:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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