Dick Groves
Editor, Cheese Reporter


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The Hunger Problem Persists

It’s that season again: the season of holidays, parties, and general over-indulgence.

But not for everyone. The fact is that hunger remains a persistent problem in the US, not to mention around the world, despite the fact that millions of Americans will in all likelihood gain a pound or three between now and early 2016.

We’d like to make a couple of points here. First, just how big is the hunger problem?

According to a recent report from USDA’s Economic Research Service, in 2014, 86 percent of US households were food secure throughout the year, while the remaining 14 percent (17.4 million households) were food insecure. Food-insecure households (those with low and very low food security) had difficulty at some time during 2014 providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources.

Further, in 2014, 5.6 percent of US households (6.9 million households) had very low food security, ERS reported. In this more severe range of food insecurity, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times due to limited resources.

Children (also known as “the future”) were food insecure at times during 2014 in 9.4 percent of US households with children (3.7 million households). These households were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.

What about globally? According to the latest edition of the annual United Nations hunger report, the number of hungry people in the world has dropped to 795 million (216 million fewer than in 1990-92).

In the developing regions, the prevalence of undernourishment — which measures the proportion of people who are unable to consume enough food for an active and healthy life — has declined to 12.9 percent of the population, down from 23.3 percent a quarter of a century ago, according to “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015,” published earlier this year by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Food Program.

These hunger statistics prompt a couple of thoughts. First, in the US, it seems that obesity garners a majority of the food-related headlines, but hunger poses a significant problem as well, one that arguably deserves more attention than it currently receives.

And globally, we’ve been hearing for a number of years now that agriculture is going to have to gear up to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050. That’s even more challenging than it might seem, considering that we’re not even adequately feeding all of the current population.

Our second point here concerns how people can help reduce the hunger problem, both in the US and worldwide. We’re frankly not optimistic that the hunger problem will ever be totally eliminated, but at least, as recent trends indicate, the problem can be reduced.

In the US, Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest) is the largest hunger-relief organization, a network of 200 food banks across the country. Feeding America feeds 46 million people at risk of hunger, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors.

There are at least three ways to support Feeding America. First, Feeding America accepts monetary donations, and says that, for every dollar donated, the Feeding America network of food banks secures and distributes 11 meals to people facing hunger.

Also, Feeding America accepts food donations. The organization bills itself as a leading waste diversion partner across the food supply chain, partnering with top industry groups and companies in the retail, manufacturing, and produce spaces. This is significant, considering that, according to the federal government, food loss and waste in the US accounts for approximately 31 percent of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers.

Finally, Feeding America and the National Dairy Council last year launched the Great American Milk Drive, which aims to get people to donate milk to hungry families. More information is available at https://milklife.com/give. And more information about Feeding America (which provides liability protection and tax benefits for its corporate partners) is available at www.feedingamerica.org.

Feeding America is the largest US hunger-relief organization, but it’s not the only one. Among the others: Share Our Strength (more information is available at www.nokidhungry.org).

Internationally, there are numerous organizations devoted to reducing hunger. One of these organizations, Heifer International (www.heifer.org), provides livestock, trees, seeds and training in environmentally sound agriculture to families in 30 countries, including the US, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.

Another organization that works internationally is Stop Hunger Now (www.stophungernow.org), which gets food and life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable people, and works to end global hunger. And Action Against Hunger’s (www.actionagainsthunger.org) programs are designed to bolster agricultural production, jumpstart local market activity, support micro-enterprise initiatives, and otherwise enhance a vulnerable community’s access to sustainable sources of food and income.

There are many, many other organizations, too numerous to list here, that are also devoted to trying to end, or at least reduce, global hunger.

Many of us will overindulge during this holiday season; there are numerous ways to help those who won’t have that opportunity.


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