Yes, we are a big country with many different people — but there is something wrong when we are both fat and hungry. CNN is citing a federal report telling us that U.S. hunger levels continue to be at a 15-year high. Why 15 years? Because that's as long as the Department of Agriculture has been tracking it.
Because of a lack of resources, around 14.7 percent of American households were referred to as “food insecure” in 2009. That means that 17.4 million households had trouble feeding at least one member of their group. Of that group, over a third were listed as having “very low food security.” That's 6.8 million households.
The government's three biggest anti-hunger initiative programs — like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — all saw increases in participation as well.
Yet our obesity rate, according to a January report from USA Today, is still “leveling off.” So while some Americans have reached what appears to be critical mass, others are going to sleep hungry. The issues, of course, are complex.
CNN also states in its report that, “A lack of resources prompted one or more members of these households to eat much less or otherwise adjust their eating patterns.” But it's the “otherwise adjust their eating patterns,” part that leads us to another cause for concern. An adjustment in eating patterns can mean a lot of things. If it means that people are switching, say, to a diet inspired by Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook, that would be great. Bittman's focus is on lowering our percentage of meat intake per meal, and creating a lifestyle which is healthier, more sustainable, and more in line with our natural history.
But is that likely, or even feasible? Probably not. When eating patterns are adjusted, sometimes it means eating less — but often times it just means eating more fast food. In the end, our nation's eating habits are at a historic low point. Some Americans (probably including the people who regularly read this blog) are enjoying some of the best eating our country has ever seen. Yet some are starving, and others are morbidly obese. One thing is certain — we are doing something terribly, terribly wrong.