The Hunger Problem in America

Our research here at Global ResQ, indicates that hunger everywhere is a two-part problem:  1.  Simply being able to eat enough to feel satisfied, and 2.  Eating food that is actually nutritional and supportive of all of the energy, health and growth needs of our bodies.  The first problem is easier to quantify than the second.  But the second is more severe and creates far more health and behavioral problems than the first.

The extent of the first problem is well known.  The website for “Feeding America,” the leading nonprofit fighting hunger in America today, estimates that 1 in 6 Americans are hunger challenged.  According to the statistics from Feeding America, 50.1 million Americans are living in food insecure households that include 33.5 million adults and 16.7 children.  There is a greater percentage of food insecure households with children, than those without children.  And many of those without children are the elderly and infirm.

In 2011, the data show that 6.1 million Americans required emergency food support from various food banks, soup kitchens, etc.  And these numbers do not include those using government issued food stamps.

To address this first problem, over $3 billion is donated each year to nonprofits such as Feeding America, Feed the Children, and Food for the Poor.  The bulk of these donations, however, are donations in kind.  Basically, such donations are tax deductible donations of second tier, about to expire, canned and packaged goods, along with some frozen goods, such as TV dinners and processed meats.  I recently visited a local food bank operated by a Church.  All of the food certainly looked well packaged.  But none of it appeared to be particularly healthy.  There were no fresh vegetables.  There were no dairy products.  And all of the frozen meats appeared to be bulk leftovers.

Now, please don’t misunderstand.  I salute the organizations and people working hard, and donating their time and often their cash, to provide these supplemental emergency food supplies.

But perhaps its time we raised the bar and began addressing the root problem, the second problem of nutritional hunger.  There are certainly many structural, societal, regulatory, pharmacological, industrial and taste addiction challenges involved.   According to many experts, most people consuming the standard American diet (SAD) are nutritionally very hungry, even if they are obese.  So the real hunger problem is more serious than the “Feeding America” statistics indicate.  Therefore, providing “Healthy Food for Hungry People” is a challenge well worth society’s joint efforts.

Here are just a few reasons:

The Weston A. Price foundation recently published a comprehensive summary of research exploring the negative impact of the traditional American diet on behaviors and health.  (“Violent Behavior:  A Solution in Plain Sight” by Sylvia Onusic, PhD, Wise Traditions, Spring 2013, pp. 19-35).

In that extensive review, the author pointed out that the solution to increased violence in society may simply be a change in the current traditional diet.  For example, Dr. Onusic pointed out that over three thousand chemicals, classified as food additives are added to typical food products.  Many of these additives affect mood and behavior. Dr. Onusic went on to describe many of these additives and their effects.  For example, sodium lactate often added to luncheon meats, can bring on panic attacks and increase adrenal levels generating a proclivity for the fight or flight response to stress.  She particularly noted the problems with the very high consumption rates of sugar, pointing out that high concentrations of blood glucose levels often result in significant brain shrinkage.  She also reported research by Dr. Schoenthaler, a professor of criminal justice at California State University that decreasing sugar consumption significantly lowered the rate of antisocial behavior.   In fact, at nine separate institutions in three states, he found the behavior of juvenile delinquents improved significantly after the elimination of high-sugar junk foods.