THE ISSUE:Hunger in America is worsening, but Congress talks of cutting food assistance.
WHERE WE STAND:During economic hardship, families need more help with basic needs such as food, not less.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Even before the June 29 derecho storm upset life from the Midwest to the Atlantic Coast, something was going on with hunger in America.
The storm knocked out power to grocery stores and gas stations. It blocked roads and caught people by surprise. So, some who had no problem feeding their families on a normal day needed food help during the power outage. Obviously, everyone should stock up on non-perishable food before the next big storm, winter or summer.
But something else is at work here. An increasing number of people, both in West Virginia and across the country, have trouble meeting their food needs under normal circumstances. The problem has been getting worse since the start of the Great Recession, yet Congress is talking about cutting funds for food assistance.
About 14 percent of West Virginia households experienced "food insecurity" at some point during 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. That means those homes did not have enough food for a healthy and active life at some time. The national average is even worse: 14.5 percent.
The USDA also tracks more severe "very low food security" households where people actually reduce the amount of food they eat or whose normal eating patterns are disrupted because of lack of food. About 5.4 percent of American households experienced "very low food security" in 2010. The good news here is that the share of children suffering this degree of hunger actually decreased between 2009 and 2010.
But overall, the problem of hunger, and the stress of constantly struggling for the next meal, has been rising. Compared to today, in 2007, only 11 percent of American households were insecure. (Eleven percent? That's still more than one in 10 American homes.)