Hungry for the Truth on Hunger

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Every year, I nervously wait for the grim news of mass starvation in the U.S. Millions in America are creeping to death’s door on the brink of complete hunger. These masses, due to the inequality of our society, are utterly desperate for food. Or so "hunger relief" groups in this country would like to have us think.

These organizations constantly publish statistics with completely absurd numbers such as:

  • "35.1 million people — including 12.4 million children — live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger. This represents more than one in ten households in the United States (11.0 percent).
  • 3.9 percent of U.S. households experience hunger. Some people in these households frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day. 10.8 million people, including 606 thousand children, live in these homes.
  • 7.1 percent of U.S. households are at risk of hunger. Members of these households have lower quality diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they cannot always afford the food they need. 24.4 million people, including 11.8 million children, live in these homes."

~ Bread for the World

These numbers never seem to hit reality. If anything America is one of the most obese nations in the world. A quick drive through poor sections of New Orleans easily reminds me of this. This supposed 11% of hungry people are nowhere to be found.

Instead of looking skinny and gaunt, most of the people in these neighborhoods look plump and overstuffed. Other groups point out concerns in different areas. The American Obesity Association now claims that over 64.5% of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight.

Now, one of the two here has to be wrong. The U.S. can’t be both starving and getting overweight at the same time. It just doesn’t make sense.

From my personal experience seeing overweight poor everywhere, I’m going to take a guess that this is the false one. The only people starving in this country are over privileged rich white girls trying to look like Paris Hilton.

Let’s be frank here, there’s lots of things that can go wrong in America. You can lose a job, get kicked out your house, and end up on the street. But going hungry is something that’s very difficult to accomplish. It can usually only be done by sticking a finger down your throat and vomiting while trying to keep your new Prada purse puke-free.

If a person is really broke, food is the last thing that’s out of affordability range. Dollar Menus at fast food places alone could keep a person from starving. At most a homeless person would have to beg for $3 and get 3 double cheeseburgers at McDonald’s. That’s enough calories to keep a person going. This is hardly starvation.

If not that, aren’t there plenty of even cheaper avenues for food? One of my favorite dishes to make is jambalaya. Whenever I have a large amount of guests, I prepare this New Orleanian treat. You gotta buy a sausage and mix for about $5, add about two cups of rice, and you’ve got yourself enough food to feed 5—8 people. If you cook, food is not that expensive. The jambalaya costs about 80 cents per person.

These just seem like simple ways to save money to me. But who am I to comment on this with reason and rationality.

The all-wise government USDA explains how these 35.1 million people are at the risk of not having food security and being hungry. These statistics are not based on how much food a person consumes but instead on how much money a person spends on food. If you are a certain amount below the median for U.S. households, you are considered hungry.

Of course this median is calculated by adding the price of all food including restaurants! Perhaps, the statistics would make a little sense if the comparison was in grocery bills. But no, your bill at a fine dining establishment is calculated inside these fabulously accurate statistics to determine whether you are hungry or not.

The USDA says that a person has food insecurity at $30—$32.50 a week. According to them, the average person spends $40 a week on food.

I suddenly realized the horrible truth of these statistics. They told me something about myself that I didn’t know before. If I don’t go to a restaurant this week, I’ll be STARVING!!!!! The USDA must be alerted quickly. I was left out of statistics the true number is 35.1 million people plus one!

My grocery bill is split with my brother/roommate. Being a college student, I shop pretty conservatively, buying only what I need with occasional frills such as new spice or expensive olive oil. I enjoy making cheaper foods and saving money with things like jambalaya, Cuban dishes, and the classic red beans/rice. My grocery bill amounts to $150 for two weeks. If I took out the frills, I could probably get the bill easily to $120. Split in two; this would be $60 on my part. And $60 divided by 2 weeks is $30 dollars. At six feet tall and 230 pounds, I’m one of the 35.1 million hungry people in the United States.

These statistics are another perversion of economic research that does not consider human action. Setting standards of middle class food spending to the poor and calling the lack of spending hunger is simply ridiculous.

When you’re broke, you hold off on the restaurants, and you buy cheaper food. People react to prices and budget constraints. This alarmism of hunger in the U.S. is desperate anti-capitalist propaganda attempting to disguise the obvious outright gluttony in this country. Some people try to twist the facts. This is almost outright fabrication with the use of statistical science.

Only through understanding human action, using reason, and common sense can we identify true problems worthy of immediate attention. Until then check your local news and you won’t find anyone other than anorexics starving in mass numbers. Food is perhaps the only thing everyone has in great plentitude. It’s time to come back to reason and common sense when faced with these absurd statistics that cover almost all "hunger relief" websites. The web of lies attempting to undermine our country with anti-capitalist propaganda easily unravels to those willing to seek the truth.

These people try to use their emotional persuasion to keep dissenters quiet. Who would say theses kids aren’t starving? I personally have had enough of emotional appeals disguising blatant lies in an attempt to cover up the truth about hunger in America as well as many other issues. No longer should this level of obfuscation be tolerated especially when the information comes from charitable organizations.

This doesn’t mean that everyone is eating right; the obesity and overweight statistics point this out on the other side of the coin. Not every day of the year is everyone stuffed popping the buttons of their shirts. But to suggest that America has 35.1 million hungry people is outrageous.

Vedran Vuk [send him mail] is a student of Economics at Loyola University of New Orleans, and a 2006 Summer Fellow at the Mises Institute.

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