People's Hunger Primer

Posted: December 21, 2011

WHAT DOES it mean to be hungry in 21st-

century America?

The technical term that the USDA uses for what we call hunger is "food insecure." To be "food insecure" means that you don't have enough money to buy food that you or your family needs.

Is hunger a big problem? In 2010, about 14.5 percent of U.S. households - 48.8 million people - reported being food insecure at some point during the year, including 16.2 million children. And the numbers have been going up - that 2010 number is up 2.6 million people from 2009.

How about in Philadelphia? In the First Congressional District, which includes Kensington and parts of North and South Philly, half of all households with children report that they can't always afford to buy enough food. It is considered the fourth hungriest Congressional district in the country.

An estimated 26.7 percent of the Philadelphia population lives in poverty, according to the American Community Survey, and we have one of the highest child-poverty rates in the U.S., with 36.4 percent living at or below the federal poverty line.

There are 450,000 people enrolled in the food-stamp program in Philadelphia. Another 170,000 are eligible, but not enrolled.

What to do if you're hungry: Get informed about nutrition. One of our People's Board members found that when she learned to serve orange juice instead of soda, for example, she was able to feed her family much better for the same amount of money. Visit choosemyplate.gov for more.

Of course, you might still need help getting nutritious food. The Philabundance Food Helpline can help you find the food pantry closest to you: 1-800-319-Food (3663). And the Coalition Against Hunger's Food Stamp Hotline can help get you signed up for food stamps: 215-430-0556.

What to do to help: Taking cans of food down to your local food driveis not the best way to help put food on someone's table.

Think about it. Most hunger relief organizations have a structure in place to buy food cheaply and efficiently. You paying retail price and donating just slows down the process. You're better off donating money. If you can't, consider volunteering your time. Here are a few local hunger relief organizations:

www.philabundance.org/

www.sharefoodprogram.org

www.hungercoalition.org

www.thefoodtrust.org.

- Doron Taussig

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