A report by the USDA Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS) dated November 2006, regarding hunger in the United States in 2005 states the following:
Eighty-nine percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2005, meaning that they had access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households were food insecure at least some time during that year. The prevalence of food insecurity declined from 11.9 percent of households in 2004 to 11.0 percent in 2005, while the prevalence of very low food security remained unchanged at 3.9 percent. This report, based on data from the December 2005 food security survey, provides the most recent statistics on the food security of U.S. households, as well as on how much they spent for food and the extent to which food-insecure households participated in Federal and community food assistance programs.
What did I tell you? “Hunger” has been successfully eliminated. What a wonderful gift this 2006 holiday season. You can’t find “hunger” mentioned anywhere and you never will again. In fact I would speculate that if any of the good folks at the USDA ever utter the word “hunger” again they will be fired. And mentioning that minority of U.S. households, 3.9 percent, who experience “hunger,” would not qualify for dismissal. The figure translates only to 4.4 million households.
Notice how “people” are not mentioned, but only “households”. Seems more impersonal and detached that way and you get to work with a lot smaller number than voicing the number of “people”.
The next summary surprisingly actually does refer to human beings. The USDA-ERS describes the issue in part as follows:
USDA’s domestic food assistance programs increase food security by providing children and low income people access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education. Reliable monitoring of food security contributes to the effective operation of these programs as well as that of private food assistance programs and other government initiatives aimed at reducing food insecurity. USDA’s annual food security report provides statistics that guide planning for Federal, State, and community food assistance programs.
The words and intent sound wonderful, especially when wrapped up in a political speech. The reality of the food assistance program is going in the opposite direction as noted in news outlets all over the nation. According to an article by Libby Quaid in the Chicago Sun Times (Nov. 15, 2006): “Schools that receive turkeys from the Agriculture Department are turning elsewhere this year for Thanksgiving lunches for students: There's not enough for the lunch program that feeds 29 million kids...'Even though we've put out word we want to buy turkey, they're not selling it to USDA,' said Billy Cox, Agricultural Marketing Service spokesman.”
Former lobbyist at the helm
Who needs the food assistance programs if there is no “hunger”? Overseeing all this at the USDA are President Bush’s political appointees. For instance, USDA Deputy Undersecretary Charles Lambert is a former lobbyist for the meat industry who opposed labeling. He testified at congressional hearings that mad cow disease was not a threat. When Congress entertained a law requiring meat to be labeled as to its origin, the USDA opposed it. The person making the agency's case, Lambert, knew the arguments against such labels. He'd made them as a lobbyist for the National Cattleman's Beef Association. We all can rest easier today knowing that a former lobbyist for the meat industry is providing his oversight at the USDA in providing a safe food supply and plenty of it to boot.
And so as we sleep off the last of the safe 2006 Thanksgiving meal, and what a stomach expanding event it was, we can all repeat the same “re-frame”, “hunger is gone” and really mean it. Rest assured the President is doing more “hard work” in anticipation of eliminating other pressing issues in America today.
Commentary by Mark Adams