What is poverty? Americans might well be surprised to learn from other government data that the overwhelming majority of those defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau were well-housed and adequately fed even in the recession year 2009. About 4 percent of them did temporarily become homeless.
Data from the Department of Energy and other agencies show that the average poor family, as defined by Census officials:
? Lives in a home that is in good repair, not crowded, and equipped with air conditioning, clothes washer and dryer, and cable or satellite TV service.
? Prepares meals in a kitchen with a refrigerator, coffee maker and microwave as well as oven and stove.
? Enjoys two color TVs, a DVD player, VCR and – if children are there – an Xbox, PlayStation, or other video game system.
? Had enough money in the past year to meet essential needs, including adequate food and medical care.
McIntyre notes that Census officials “continue to grossly exaggerate the numbers of the poor, creating a false picture in the public mind of widespread material deprivation.” But it isn’t just Census officials promoting this false picture. In a piece I wrote for National Review in January called the Hunger Code, I explained that the U.S. Department of Agriculture also grossly exaggerates the so-called crisis of hunger in America.
To listen to USDA officials discuss thier annual report on the status of hunger in America, one would believe that Americans are suffering from starvation, chronic hunger, and substandard nutrition. But this just isn’t so.
…USDA defines “food insecurity” as one of two situations: low food security, which is “reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet with little or no indication of reduced food intake”; and very low food security, or “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.” No indication of reduced food intake? Disrupted eating patterns? This is hunger in America.
The most recent USDA report, “Household Food Security in the United States 2009,” states that 17.4 million households (or 50.2 million people) fit into one of these two categories at some point during 2009. Of these 17.4 million households, the majority – 10.6 million households – experienced “low” food security at some point during the year. That means these families were still able to “obtain enough food to avoid substantially disrupting their eating patterns or reducing food intake” but had less variety in their diets, participated in federal food assistance programs, and at times obtained food from food pantries. The remaining 6.8 million households (which include 5.4 million children) experienced “very low” food security, meaning normal eating patterns were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times.
In other words, one in four American families isn’t really suffering from hunger, as the public understands the term. Rather, the problem of hunger actually persists among a relatively small portion of the population. Not surprisingly, the report says that food insecurity is more common among minority, poor, urban, and single-parent households. But even in these households, the report says, “most parents attempt to shield their children from the more severe effects of food insecurity, even when it means reducing their own food intake.” In fact, the report states, “only about one in six households with very low food security among adults had very low food security among children.”