Wednesday, September 09, 2015

U.S. household food insecurity remained high in 2014

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today reported that the rate of household food insecurity in 2014 was 14%, still far higher than historical averages and a sign that robust economic recovery has not yet reached low-income Americans.

For Politico's Agenda today, I reflected on the role of poverty reduction -- and not just food provision -- as a solution to household food insecurity. Here is the conclusion.
It may be that anti-hunger groups and political leaders focus on food because they’ve lost confidence that the United States really can make progress against the deeper problem of poverty. But this is doubly wrong. Food alone cannot eliminate the spectrum of food-related worries and shortfalls—and reducing poverty is not really beyond the capacity of the American people, their government, and their economy.


jc said...

Just wanted to drop by and thank you for this column. It is succinct and 100% correct.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on how popular charities like food banks, which are built and funded to provide food, can pivot to providing (or at least better supporting) anti-poverty efforts.

Parke Wilde said...

Food banks are terrific. It will be great to hear the brainstorming from staff and volunteers in food banks on your question. Here is my (outsider's) quick list of options to contemplate:
1. Continue to strengthen the role of food banks in supporting front-line (pantry and kitchen) efforts to link clients with public sector social safety net programs, through on-site registration and counselling for example.
2. For those clients who can work, continue to move beyond food alone and strengthen job preparation assistance (job counseling, free used business clothing, internet access, transportation assistance, and even free showers).
3. Speak up politically for anti-poverty initiatives. Because food banks pride themselves in being non-partisan, it is fine to highlight both market-oriented and safety-net oriented initiatives (although in truth, between us, it is fair to say the Democratic party has been doing better than GOP on this issue).
4. Gently press key donor companies, particularly food and beverage manufacturers, on their own living wage practices. I understand that food banks -- like all organizations that do good work on a large scale -- have a business model that requires partnership with food and beverage manufacturers. That's fine. But they could err a bit more on the side of taking risks in those partnerships.