LAND OF THE FREE, HOME OF THE HUNGRY // ROMAN LYMAN

After attending college for six and a half months and having taken my second flurry of final exams, it’s safe to say that among the nine courses I have enrolled in so far, two courses– the “Food, Self, and Culture” Critical Thinking and Writing sequence–surprised me the most. Ultimately, I learned more and more about specific social issues in America on top of the cruelties done by our food industry that seem to be swept under the carpet. Merging what I have learned from my essays together, while the concept of freedom and access to opportunities are certainly attributed to our country, our media lacks in raising awareness towards current social problems…which, unintentionally, hides them from the world. From my past essays that I have written, I decided to focus on finding relative sources to the “why”s of current US issues (such as why it’s a problem that most American citizens do not know what a healthy diet is, and why people cause harm to the transgender community), to which I turn to a food-related problem: our nation’s food insecurity and those affected by it.

Believe it or not, hunger, a major issue affecting diverse communities around the world, is  an impeding problem in the USA. While many may say that food insecurity is not a pressing issue in America, it is crucial to recognize the US populace affected by hunger. True, it may seem illogical to think that hunger in America is a serious topic, when it is a far more prevalent issue in other countries. Unlike many other nations affected by absence of food, the United States is highly wealthy and is currently the third highest country in terms of food production by calorie content as well as the second largest agricultural producer in the world behind China, according to (Sharlin 13).

In reality, hunger in America is alive and well. According to Feeding America, a non-profit organization that regulates food banks nationwide, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households in 2013, including 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million children. Why is it, then, that in a 1st world country where factory farms claim to feed the nation, there are still people who cannot afford food? On one hand, it is due to the number of people who cannot afford healthy food, mainly because of the high American unemployment rate—an astonishing 9.3 million in 2014, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data database—and on the other, due to the nation’s food industry. Indeed, paradoxically, it turns out that the function of the American food industry is a main reason for hunger. Firstly, according to Jonathan Safran Foer in his novel Eating Animals, it appears that the

Corn harvesting in Oklahoma

“vast majority of what [is] grown in the United States is fed to animals,” which could have been “land and food that [Americans] could use to feed humans or animals” (Foer 211). Furthermore, the problem that arises with the food industry relies on the type of food used in food production. According to Foer, to sustain the great number of animals raised in factory farms, “756 million tons of grain and corn [is used] per year” (211). Industrial food is essentially corn; grain and corn actually are what encompasses most food sold in supermarkets. The immense quantities of grain and corn used in animal agriculture could be used in production, for more food to be available in the market for the general public. This could benefit the customers, since the general price of certain foods would, in turn, become even cheaper.

Logistics aside, food insecurity should be absolutely recognized, because it greatly impacts the hungry newer generation. Among hungry citizens, children seem to be a target of food insecurity: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) highlights that in 2012, about 16 million children lived in food insecure homes. Furthermore, according to the SNAP website, children affected by hunger have an increase in both psychological and physical health problems, which make it difficult for them to recover over time. As a result, children’s development and overall health decreases with exposure to food insecurity. With such impeding effects, it seems logical to step back and ask ourselves how and why food security is not mentioned more in newspaper articles and on television if so many children in question are affected. Does the general public just not care of young Americans’ wellbeing? It seems hard to believe, doesn’t it.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 10.15.32 PM
art by Roman Lyman

One way food insecurity could be brought down would be to have people eat more fresh and healthy foods, which would call for a higher demand in freshly produced and healthy food, implying a limitation of factory farming. At this rate, it seems highly difficult to introduce relatively inexpensive healthy food back on the food market for customers who would not have very much to spend on them. Therefore, an actual feasible action to take is to raise awareness of hunger in America, which impacts the lives of millions of all generations. And while it may be disconcerting to viewers, what’s more important is to let the more fortunate citizens know of the privilege they have: to be able to have access to a basic necessity needed to continue living.

Works cited

  • Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
  • Sharlin, Judith. Life Cycle Nutrition: An Evidence-based Approach. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2009. Print.
  • Weinfield, Nancy S., Gregory Mills, Christine Borger, Maeve Gearing, Theodore Macaluso, Jill Montaquila, and Sheila Zedlewski. “Hunger in America 2014 National Report.” (n.d.): n. pag. http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/our-research/the-hunger-study/. Aug. 2014. Web.
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