retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post this morning reports in a page-one story that almost 50 million US citizens - including one out of every four children - had periods during the past year when they went hungry.

According to the story, “The data show that dependable access to adequate food has especially deteriorated among families with children. In 2008, nearly 17 million children, or 22.5 percent, lived in households in which food at times was scarce -- 4 million children more than the year before. And the number of youngsters who sometimes were outright hungry rose from nearly 700,000 to almost 1.1 million.

“Among Americans of all ages, more than 16 percent -- or 49 million people -- sometimes ran short of nutritious food, compared with about 12 percent the year before. The deterioration in access to food during 2008 among both children and adults far eclipses that of any other single year in the report's history.”

The Post writes that “the nation's economic crisis has catapulted the number of Americans who lack enough food to the highest level since the government has been keeping track ... The magnitude of the increase in food shortages -- and, in some cases, outright hunger -- identified in the report startled even the nation's leading anti-poverty advocates, who have grown accustomed to longer lines lately at food banks and soup kitchens. The findings also intensify pressure on the White House to fulfill a pledge to stamp out childhood hunger made by President Obama, who called the report ‘unsettling’.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a press conference yesterday that the hunger numbers can be directly traced to the nation’s rising unemployment and under-employment rate, and he suggested that the 2009 hunger statistics could yet be revised upwards.
KC's View:
“Unsettling” hardly covers it. Not sure how we can have a sophisticated and contextual discussion about issues like health care and economic policy in an era when the world’s biggest superpower cannot even feed its own population.