Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Munchable Soapbox: Food and Poverty in America

We are in the home stretch before the Live Below the Line challenge begins on May 7th. Today we'll look at poverty and food security in the US. Please consider supporting one organization fighting poverty and hunger - the Rainforest Foundation.

Contrary to popular opinion, poverty is not relegated to the developing world. According to the  National Poverty Center, in the United States 15.1% of the population lives in poverty, the highest rate since 1993. This encapsulates, for example, any family of four living on less than $23,050 per year. Traditionally, our way of dealing with poverty in the country was by putting people on welfare.  However, in 1996 the government augmented restrictions to qualify for welfare payments, while at the same time facilitating the receipt of food aid.

Food stamps have replaced cash assistance as the number one form of welfare in the country. At present, 46 million people are enrolled in the  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The program has provided considerable relief to families who have temporarily fallen on hard times during the recession, although the impacts have largely gone unnoticed. According to a recent New York Times article (and a study carried out by the USDA), SNAP reduced the poverty rate by 8% in 2009. Approximately half of those benefiting from the program are children, and six million of those enrolled rely on food stamps as their only source of income!

Many would argue that the country's nutrition program, which comprises about 75% of the Farm Bill, provides  and important safety net for the nation's most vulnerable population. Well, our U.S. House of Representatives Agricultural Committee decided to go ahead and cut $33 billion over 10 years. While the bill is not expected to pass the Senate, the action is symbolic of the committee's prioritization of military spending over nutrition programs that feed millions of Americans. For now, let's cross our fingers and hope that this important public assistance program continues to receive the support it needs.

Learn more about the "hidden" poverty in America.

Listen to the latest NPR segment on poverty and food stamps.

GOOD Food Insecurity in the US infographic.

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