The Tavis Smiley Show's "Poverty in America" – Hunger
New census data shows that 46 million people live in poverty in the United States. That's about one out of every six Americans.
Story from The Tavis Smiley Show. Listen to audio above for full report.
In its 2010 Household Food Security survey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that 49 million Americans don't have enough to eat from day to day.
About 16 million of them are children.
More than just a statistic, these Americans are described as being "food insecure," or people who do not know where their next meal is coming from. Vicki Escarra, president of the nonprofit organization Feeding America, is well aware of the effects. Feeding America has over 200 food banks and food rescue organizations and serves almost every county in the country.
Despite the many Americans who struggle to get a meal, Escarra says "there is a bit of good news." According to Feeding America's statistics, the number of people who go hungry in the U.S. has remained steady, year to year. Escarra attributes that to extensions of government programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance.
"Any cuts to these programs will push more people into poverty and into hunger," Escarra said.
In addition, Emily Allen, vice president of AARP Foundation, points out that about 9 million older adults are food insecure. In the scarce job market of the recession, Americans age 50-59 have been hard hit.
"These are individuals that still have children in the home," Allen said of the 50-59 group.
For older Americans, the toughest decision is often whether to pay for food or for medications. And for those with kids, Allen says families will sometimes forgo more expensive medications to put food on the table.
"This really is a crisis point," Escarra said. "If we allow the most vulnerable populations — our senior citizens who've worked to make our country great, and then our kids —- to fall into these crisis situations... What does that say about us?"
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"The Tavis Smiley Show" is a weekly show offering a unique blend of news and newsmakers in expanded conversations, along with feature reports and regular commentators. "The Tavis Smiley Show" is produced by Tavis Smiley productions, and distributed nationwide by PRI.