Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"Hunger report" scheduled for November release, but may not say "hunger"

As U.S. Food Policy noted earlier, USDA's forthcoming annual report on the extent of "food insecurity" and "food insecurity with hunger" in the United States is scheduled for release later this month. The AP's Libby Quaid offered a provocative article just before this week's election, quoting people who suggested that perhaps the postponement was political.

What hasn't been discussed in the media, as far as I can tell, is the intense pressure that USDA must be feeling to amend its use of the word "hunger" in response to the recommendations of this report from the National Academies, which may be read free online. Former USDA under secretary Eric Bost, a long-time Texas ally of the President, was known to criticize USDA's food insecurity measure, but he has now become ambassador to South Africa, so it is not clear how strongly his influence will be felt. What would the AP article have looked like if the new report had come out before the election, but the term "food insecurity with hunger" was changed to the milder "very low food security" as some have suggested?

It will be difficult to understand the politics of the scheduling for this report until we learn what the numbers actually say. Here is U.S. Food Policy's summary of last year's report, describing several years of deterioration in household food security.

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