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Hunger At Home In The U.S.

Updated on July 8, 2013

If you had to choose which single thing to pay for, which would you choose? Shelter, electricity, life-saving prescriptions, or food? Currently, people of all backgrounds and ages are frequently facing this choice. Some college campuses are starting food pantries to feed students who would otherwise go hungry. It is common for these college based food pantries to have empty shelves within hours or days of receiving donations.

To understand and eventually tackle the problem of hunger is in the U.S., we need to see the causes and the diverse groups that it affects. To start, there are 47 million Americans receiving food stamps or SNAP. This is approximately 15% of the U.S. population. Hunger affects millions of Americans, some of whom do not ask for or are refused assistance on the local, state, or federal levels. Those in food insecure households are frequently employed part or full time in one or more jobs. This was the case before the recession and has only worsened since.

Contrary to what some people believe, the homeless are a small percentage of those going hungry but definitely no less of a priority. Going further to dispel some of the myths about hunger, some of the people responsible for food production are actually suffering from hunger. For example, rural hunger affects approximately 3 million households and it is in rural areas that large amounts of American food is produced. Those in rural areas tend to have lower paying jobs and lower education levels are more common. In addition, unemployment and underemployment rates are higher in these areas of the United States.

Volunteers of America Soup Kitchen in Washington D.C.
Volunteers of America Soup Kitchen in Washington D.C. | Source

U.S. Veterans are also battling hunger. Some American veterans are going hungry and are also at risk of homelessness due to recurring "backlogs" that go unattended. Is this truly how United States veterans deserve to be treated? In fact, some of these "backlogs" are allowed to occur repeatedly without intervention or significant improvement to address the needs of our veterans and give them the support they need and the things that are due to them such as the GI bill and others. Other veterans are going hungry due to a lack of employment and/or other personal problems such as substance abuse.

In addition to the homeless, hungry veterans, and hungry rural residents there are many more groups of the U.S. population experiences hunger requiring emergency food assistance such as those living in urban and mountainous areas of the U.S. Also, people from various backgrounds and ages are going hungry in the U.S. In some cases, if parents are going hungry, so are their children. Many Americans are unaware that millions of children here live in food insecure households, yet they are quick to think of hunger as being a problem in a third world country. Many do not think of the children in American cities, suburbs, and in Appalachia, who are living in food insecure households. Some children's health and learning abilities will suffer due to a lack of food.

Some U.S. colleges and universities have opened food pantries to aid hungry students. A fairly large number of college students live at or below the poverty line during their college years despite some appearances or assumptions to the contrary. Iowa State University and UC Davis are just two of a growing list of schools attempting to help hungry students by offering on campus food pantries where students can go and get free food.

Bowls of rice to feed the hungry.
Bowls of rice to feed the hungry. | Source

Senior citizens are also living in food insecure households with many having to choose between life saving prescriptions, paying utilities, paying rent or a mortgage, or buying food. Some of these citizens are unable to go and pick up emergency food assistance or may be unable or embarrassed to ask. This is a great example of how important it is that families and neighbors be a bit more involved when it comes to seniors, whether they live alone or not and regardless of whether they appear to be healthy or ill.

African Americans and Latinos are 3 times as likely as Caucasians to receive emergency food assistance. According to, in 2000 over 16 million Caucasians didn't have enough to eat and 4.5 million more skipped meals or reduced portions.

As you can see, some of the facts about hunger in the U.S. are troublesome, however this doesn't mean that the problem of hunger cannot be reduced or eventually eliminated. "As Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research’s Global Attitudes Project, noted recently, the United States stands out among advanced economies in how many people report having trouble feeding their families. The U.S. has the power and resources to do many things and eradicating hunger is one of them." (

Hunger is a larger problem than many people are aware of, affecting as many as 1 in 7 adults and 1 in 5 children. It is within your power as a concerned citizen to do something to help. You can help by volunteering your time randomly or regularly, donating food or money to foodbanks, homeless shelters and food pantries, or educating others about hunger.

If you know or suspect that a family is struggling financially, how about performing a random act of kindness and getting $20 or $25 worth of groceries, leaving it on their doorstep and ringing their bell? It's your choice to stick around or you could leave and be anonymous, which helps those who might be embarrassed accept your gift. You never know, you could make a huge difference and show someone to continue having faith or give them a boost just when they just may need it most.

Have you or anyone that you know ever gone hungry?

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    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i am not sure about US but in malaysia, you can see beggars n the streets begging

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 3 years ago from East Coast

      Thanks so much for reading. During the warm months of the year, many people forget about the hungry and homeless and donations and volunteers can be hard to find. Yet, around the holidays, some charities are inundated with volunteers to help. I think this is one of the biggest things that needs to change to address both of these problems effectively.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Yes, Express10. The homeless are within our borders. We don't have to go to a foreign country to find US Citizens who are doing without the basic necessities of life. You're right to bring this to our attention and to give us solutions to find ways to help.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 3 years ago from East Coast

      Thanks so much for reading Torrilynn. It's sad to see that our government often prefers to help other countries before making any significant progress with all our various problems such as hunger right here at home.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 3 years ago

      I agree that hunger is a huge problem in the U.S. and not just a problem in foreign countries. These issues need to be addressed right away and more people should donate. Voted up and useful.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 4 years ago from East Coast

      Thanks, I tried not to make it too long or too short, I hope that I can remind readers of the fact that some of the people in our communities are really struggling.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      Express this was a powerfully driven hub .. damn really well done

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 4 years ago from East Coast

      What you've heard is right and the warmer and warmest months of the year is when charities are struggling to stock their shelves to help the needy. I worked for a charity that helped the hungry and saw some of the huge efforts that are made to feed people. But much of the public only gives around the holidays. Thanks so much for reading.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      This is hard to think about but you're absolutely right. Way too many people don't get to eat enough and we don't realize it. I've heard food pantries are barren because so many people are borrowing but not enough are donating. This definitely needs to change. Thanks for writing such a great hub!

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 4 years ago from East Coast

      I live in a military town and know a couple of students that waited more than 3 months for their GI bill stipends (and other services) to "come through." There are many reports of these delays through various media sources as well. During the wait for funds due them, our veterans have bills of all sorts that go unpaid, some get evicted or even get foreclosed on.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 4 years ago from East Coast

      So many people only think of helping others during the holidays...what about the rest of the year? Thanks so much for reading.

    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Efficient Admin 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      I love the idea that some college campuses are starting food banks for the students that go there. That is a great service, and it's a real shame what is happening to some of our veterans.

      I know there are many people who have full-time jobs that sometimes just can't make ends meet, because they are in minimum-wage jobs. It's tough out there and your advice to donate to food banks and homeless shelters can make a big difference.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      Thank you so much for sharing this with us. There is so much poverty and hunger in the world and in the United States today. Thank you also, for telling us how to help people. We don't have to do it just on Christmas. We can do it, maybe one day per week.

      Voted up and God bless you