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Hunger in America: Let's Get to the Root of the Problem

Updated on June 30, 2014

Hunger in America: A Hopeless Cause?

According to Feeding America, over 50 million people in America are hungry, including more than one in five children.

Documentaries and articles make us teary-eyed as we throw our hands up in the air and say, "What can we do?"

Then we grab a snack to plop down on the couch, watching Gordon Ramsey's forehead vein pop out as he dumps another plate of overcooked--and overfished--scallops in the trash can.

Change is Happening Because of People Like THIS

Stephen Ritz - Green Bronx Machine

This guy is AMAZING! Please watch this video about a guy who walks the walk.

Why Don't We Do . . . SOMETHING?

Do we feel powerless because of the problem, or because of the solutions They provide?

You know who They are: Those whose voices are the loudest. They repeat senseless ideas as though they were mantras --you need more, more, more--more exercise, more calorie restriction, more generous donations from viewers like you.

But Their ideas aren't working. And we've forgotten how to think for ourselves and demand that They change. They need to teach our children how to LIVE, not merely how to pass a state-run test.

They need to promote health by providing true, useful knowledge, not by designing another food pyramid or plate or label or checkmark or--*sigh*--whatever.

We need to tell Them, "HEY! The clue-phone is ringing. It's for YOU."

So I might cause some controversy: The injustices in this great country of ours are legion.

And I speak to you as a mother and a wife who lives well under the poverty line . . .

. . . I am not helpless. And hungry people in this country are not helpless.

We need to stop pitying and start educating. Stop giving handouts and start guiding.

And for goodness sake, stop throwing money at problems and actually come up with solutions!


The Food Stamp Program Needs to Change

You have to address the food stamp issue when you're talking about hunger in America.

With food stamps, you can buy candy bars, potato chips, and soda. You can buy cookies, donuts, and energy drinks. You can buy crackers, cakes, and Cocoa Puffs.

You cannot buy a prepared rotisserie chicken, a sub sandwich, or hot side dishes.

Do you see something wrong with this picture?

Yes, we want to fix the hunger problems in America. But all we do is pass out more processed junk food, allow food deserts to continue, and keep people from learning how to truly survive.

It's like the old story of teaching a man to fish (except today, those fish are cheese-flavored snack crackers).

I get frustrated because people continue to say that eating healthy is too expensive. This is a myth that I believe is perpetuated by food manufacturers.

Yes, I'm a conspiracy freak, but I'm right about this one. I swear.


Knowledge = Power

Eating whole foods saves money.

So what's the problem? Why aren't we eating nutritious foods if they're actually affordable?

Because many don't even have access to whole foods. Those who do don't know how to get the most nutrition (and flavor) per dollar.

Of course, there are those who choose to spend what little money and resources they have on junk, too. We won't pretend that doesn't exist.

Many of us don't even know kitchen basics that were practiced by our great grandparents. The days of simmering chicken bones for broth are behind us. We throw away those valuable bones and then buy the watery, MSG-filled canned broth or bullion cubes in the store.

Can you imagine? We're tossing nutrient-filled bones in the trash and buying canned, flavored water. Homemade yogurt or sauerkraut costs pennies per serving, but we think that we need to buy these healthy, expensive items.

So far from the truth!

Kids go to school to learn about things that happened 200 years ago. They learn how to draw a right angle. They learn that when 2x=12, x=6 (is that right? I barely remember).

What they don't learn is how to create and stick to a food budget, how to build a chicken coop, or how to cook simple, nutritious meals using whole foods.

And that's some valuable information!

Every school has enough property to have--at the very least--a square-foot garden. There is no excuse whatsoever that we can't make gardening-related courses required from elementary through high school.

But Thoreau was criticized for advocating a life of self-sufficiency, so why should we assume that judgements will be any different these 150+ years later?

Joel Salatin: American Hero

My Slow Cooker

Hamilton Beach 33262 Stay or Go 6-Quart Slow Cooker
Hamilton Beach 33262 Stay or Go 6-Quart Slow Cooker

An amazing tool for eating healthy while saving time and money. And this one has a cool locking lid so that you can take it with you.


So, What Can We Do?

Here are some ideas:

  • Eliminate the food deserts. {By the way, Washington, this issue is more important than protecting a multi-billion-dollar company from future lawsuits.}
  • Subsidize our nation's true farmers. Not ConAgra or Cargill, but the Joel Salatins of this country who work to keep fresh, healthy food available and affordable to our citizens.
  • Provide grants for young people who feel like having a farm of their own is but a pipe dream.
  • Provide classes for people in both urban and rural areas on how to maintain a successful garden.
  • Distribute donated equipment, like shovels, rakes, and lumber for raised beds.
  • Provide seeds and teach people how to save seeds (or would that be a conflict of interest when we step on Monsanto's toes?).
  • Teach people how to eat nutrient-dense food on a budget. Provide information on basic cooking and preserving techniques.
  • Provide families with slow cookers that will allow them to make large, inexpensive meals using little electricity.
  • Teach people how to cook without electricity by using homemade solar ovens.

We Don't Have to Do Things the Way They've Always Been Done

I don't want to see people going to bed hungry each night. I don't want to see children going to school with grumbling tummies. But I sure as heck don't want to slap a bandage on an infection that requires surgery and say I've done my part.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 4 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      Exactly, its simply about fairness.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Too true, Cygnet. It's not about an equal distribution of funds, but why should anyone who works hard to keep food on the table go hungry? It's just not right. Thanks for your comment.

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 4 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      Good article, makes me think.

      So much of our monetary system reminds me of Ireland and Scotland under English rule where the people who did the work eked out an existence while the rich lords lived fat, happy indulgent lives. Why should anyone work hard working forty hours at a minimum wage that doesn't even provide the necessities. Why should we allow companies like Walmart to get rich while many of their full time employees are getting assistance.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      I agree, Wayne. There is so much nonsense being taught in schools today and few (if any) life skills. This, combined with people in Washington who fight against better pay for workers, set the stage for disaster. Yes, there are many who take advantage of the system, but don't forget those who have hit hard times and can't gain a foothold: those who have lost jobs and can't catch up, those who become ill and need medical treatment they can't afford, people who may not be the sharpest tools in the shed but still deserve the ability to pay their rent and utility bills. A large problem lies in the fact that we spend a lot of time focusing on low-income families who are taking advantage of the system, and in the process we ignore large corporations who are far worse: I think our government does a good job getting Americans to fight one another in order to shift our focus. Anyway, we could go on and on about this issue! I appreciate your thoughts and comment.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas

      Maybe we need to be looking more at how two people hooked up on drugs can manage to create a family of two or three children yet spend all their meager income on drugs rather than food for the kids. The kids are victims...the other two, well they are way beyond dangerous. Money does not cure those issues but goes a long way to lining the pockets of those running an industry off of it. Since LBJ declared war on poverty, America has spent over $15 trillion dollars in that war and the end result is that we now have more poverty than we did when it all started. If these children survive these drug-laden parents, too often, the still follow in the footsteps giving up early on having any semblance of a normal life and not really knowing how to go about it. They have been falling in the public safety net since their birth and really know no other way. Ultimately, this situation is growing at a faster rate and the abilities of the "cure" thus the problem is growing. By the way, our wise elected ones did away with "Home Economics" in school many years ago on the premise that it was an "outmoded" concept and a slap in the face of women to suggest that they take on that role. Maybe we need to rethink some of those areas. ~WB

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      True that, Wayne. Thanks for stopping by!

    • wayne barrett profile image

      Wayne Barrett 4 years ago from Clearwater Florida

      Amen Sister! Great article Liz. It seems to be an epidemic out of control...stupidity, that is.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Yes, I agree with you totally. The issue goes much deeper than a person in need of a meal.

      There are so many people doing great things around this country. I'm constantly in awe of how groups put so much time and effort into helping others.

      I agree with you about the high-carb diet problem. Many have no idea that carbs=sugar because health authorities keep telling them to eat gobs and gobs of grains while cutting back on natural fats. It just keeps people choosing those high-profit-margin manufactured foods.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, B!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared with followers and on social networking sites.

      Some places are already going in the direction you suggest. For instance, when I lived a few years ago in Moscow, Idaho, the Co-op Food Store had classes in growing and cooking or preparing healthy foods, and Mary Jane Buttars, a pioneer in organic farming, sometimes came into town to teach a class. Moscow, ID is also the home of Backyard Harvest, a program thanks to which in season the food banks can give the hungry poor not just canned and boxed foods but also fresh fruits and vegetables, donated literally from the harvest of backyard gardens and trees. Here in Kalamazoo, Michigan, dilapidated houses are being turned into parks and community gardens. But it's time to go beyond the local to the state and national levels in encouraging healthy farming and healthy eating.

      Besides the poor using food stamps to get and eat sugary junk food, there is also the problem that some of the cheapest staple foods, such as potatoes, pasta, bread (cheap if not fresh), tortillas, rice, pizza, etc. are high in carbs, which is why it's not uncommon for quite poor adults to be overweight, even obese.

      Problems of food deprivation and poverty have both individual and social / political solutions. Best to look at the problems from both perspectives.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Yes, Sage, I agree. In the movie Food, Inc., they followed a low-income family who said they didn't have money for anything but fast food and processed junk. At the grocery store, they wouldn't buy their daughter a pear because it was too expensive, but they had money for Coke! The movie tried to emphasize the point that it's too expensive for low-income families to eat healthy. The family went to a fast food restaurant and spent 11 bucks on dinner--you could make 11 dollars stretch into dinner for a few days if you put in a little time and effort! So frustrating. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sage!

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 4 years ago

      This is great stuff. I have long railed against the "healthy eating is expensive" nonsense. It's only expensive if you don't eliminate the other crud like soda, cookies, chips and cereals off your grocery list. When you eat healthier foods you don't get hungry as much, so you eat less.

      I always thought the food stamp program should be more like WIC-- giving meat allowance, veggie allowance (frozen are fine, too), staples like butter and milk, etc. That way, poor people would be guaranteed to get what they need for a well-balanced meal. Although sadly the government agency who designed it would probably keep perpetuating this nonsense that you should make carbs and grains the foundation of every meal and would probably consider chicken nuggets 'meat'.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      LOL Thanks, Joe!

      The whole "it takes money to eat healthy" myth drives me nuts. I just bought a pound of grass-fed beef for $7, but I stretch it out over three or four days by adding it to meals that contain mostly seasonal veggies. It ends up costing less per meal, and nutrition-wise it's much better.

      Thanks again, Joe! I appreciate your support :)

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Uh oh! Billybuc's worked up--watch out!

      It's difficult to avoid being negative when you're talking about issues like this. That's why I like the two videos. Two people who are making things happen and sharing their work and ideas with the world.

      That's awesome that you had a community garden at school. A garden is beneficial in so many ways! And you don't have to make it complicated, either. By the way, yes, the chickies should be in here. :)

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      You're rad, Radcliff! : )

      Hi, Liz!

      Great videos to complement your superb and brutally honest article!

      I had the distinct pleasure of visiting an artist in the hills of Milton-Freewater who eats nothing but raw, whole foods! My plate was stacked high with chopped up veggies, topped with a delicious homemade balsamic vinegar and green grape dressing. And the entire meal cost pennies!

      My segue, if you will, into how moved I was by your hub. Thank you so much, Liz, for writing this one! I'm voting it up and across, sharing it, and doing the social media blitz!



    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You need a picture of my chickens in this hub.

      You go girl! Kickin' ass and takin' names, and everything you wrote is the truth. Some of our governmental programs are ludicrous. Some of the bs we are told about is ludicrous. I finished a hub a few days ago about government assistance and in particular the Food Stamp Program, but I haven't published it because it is such a negative hub I don't feel good about it. I am so tired of the waste and lunacy in this country.

      At the school in Oregon where I taught for two years, we turned a half acre into a school community was a huge success and all it took was something willing to plan it and make it are right, every school in America could do something like that.

      You got me worked up with this hub. :)


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