Study: 50 Million Americans Can't Afford Adequate Food

May 31, 2013 - 10:49 AM

A new study from a human rights organization says more and more Americans are having a difficult time buying an adequate amount of food - 50 million Americans, it estimates.

"Nourishing Change: Fulfilling the right to Food In the United States", conducted by the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at New York University (NYU) School of Law, found that 50 million people fall into a "food insecurity" category, or what's described as "living with trade-offs that no one should have to face, like choosing between buying food and receiving medical care or paying the bills." Of those 50 million people, nearly 17 million of them are children. One is six Americans live in a household that cannot afford adequate food.

Not surprisingly, things have taken a drastic turn for the worse since the economic meltdown. Food insecurity has skyrocketed, with an additional 14 million more people classified as food insecure in 2011 than in 2007.

Food insecurity not only impacts individuals, it costs the United States to the tune of billions of dollars. "Food insecurity is also enormously expensive for society. According to one estimate, the cost of hunger and food insecurity in the United States amounted to $167.5 billion in 2010," states the study.

The organization says food insecurity is not only the result of poverty but also policies and programs that fail to prioritize the needs of low-income Americans.

"Food insecurity in the United States is not the result of a shortage of food or of resources; it is the result of poverty and of policies and programs that fail to prioritize the needs of low-income Americans. Despite the magnitude of the problem, and its far-reaching implications,eradicating food insecurity has not been a political priority," says the author.

The study calls on the U.S. government to accept adequate food as a "human right" it is obliged to fulfill:

"[T]he U.S. government must adopt a new approach to the problem: one that shifts the focus from food assistance as charity to access to adequate food as a human right . This approach requires the U .S . government to prioritize the basic needs of all Americans; support a robust social safety net; comprehensively tackle the root causes of food insecurity; and ensure the availability, accessibility, and adequacy of food for all."

However, government involvement in addressing food needs has never been higher. Today, a record 47.6 million Americans are on food stamps. During President Obama's first term, food stamp recipients increased 11,133 per day.

In January 2009 there were 31,939,110 Americans receiving food stamps. As of November 2012, there were 47,692,896 Americans enrolled, an increase of 49.3 percent. A record number of households are also currently enrolled in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), sitting at one out of every five households.

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