By SUE TREIMAN
This year, on the 30th anniversary of the modern Food Stamp Act, 35 million Americans won’t have enough to eat, including 13 million children.
Sixteen percent of Americans are regularly “food insecure,” which means they don’t have enough money to make sure they are fed all year round. Numbers of those facing very low food security climbed from 10.7 million to 10.8 million in 2005.
Why are so many people hungry in the United States, a wealthy nation? One reason is the low minimum wage. The minimum wage is the lowest the government allows employers to pay employees per hour, day, or month. Those working parents who receive the minimum wage — $5.15 an hour — can barely cover the cost of feeding two children. Even if the hourly wage rises to $7.25, as proposed by Congress, many families will still struggle to make ends meet.
Food stamps (credit given to the needy towards food) help, but roughly 40 percent of eligible families never sign up because the application process is too difficult and time consuming.
Food pantries and soup kitchens set up across the country also reduce hunger. The proposed 2008 federal budget offers limited hope. Among other things, it seeks to end a supplemental food program serving 400,000 needy seniors and children.
Instead, advocates would like to re-authorize and broaden the Food Stamps Act in this anniversary year. Says Joel Berg, Executive Director of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger, “Childhood hunger is one of the biggest unnatural disasters in America. But unlike a natural disaster, you can prevent it from getting worse.”
FACT: 16% of Americans don’t have enough money to ensure they are fed all year round