Many factors contribute to food insecurity and hunger,* among them:
- Poverty due to chronic illness, disability, lack of education and job opportunities, low fixed income (Social Security, limited pension)
- Low Wages and Unemployment
- High Housing Costs
- Rising Cost of Food, Energy and other living expenses
- Unexpected crises that wipe out financial resources
- Wasting of food
* Hunger in the United States is measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as low or very low food security, that is, “food insecurity.” Food insecurity is the inability to consistently access adequate amounts of nutritious food necessary for a healthy life. Any degree of food insecurity can lead to malnutrition and chronic hunger, which threaten a person’s health. In the case of the seriously ill or the very young or very old, chronic hunger can even threaten one’s life.
For a family living just above the poverty line, unexpected events such as paying for emergency hospital care, a major car repair or the loss of a job can push them into poverty. When a family is that close to the edge, the budget will be adjusted by consuming smaller quantities of less expensive food, which usually does not meet all their nutritional needs.
Among all U.S. workers, 25 percent earned a poverty level hourly wage in 2005. (Economic Policy Institute, 2008)
January 2012 - New study: Poverty to keep rising due to slow [economic] recovery
Cost of living in the Fort Worth/Arlington Area
The Family Budget Estimator: What It Really Takes to Get by in Texas is a 2007 report by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. This report examines what it takes to make ends meet on a “no-frills” budget in Texas’ metropolitan areas.
Making the following assumptions:
- A 2-parent, 2-child family earns enough for housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and other basic needs without relying on government assistance.
- The family has employer-sponsored health insurance.
- The family buys bulk groceries, never eats out, and rarely purchases meat.
- The budget does not provide for any debt repayment or savings for a home or education.
To get by in the Fort Worth/Arlington area:
A family of four (in 2007) needed an annual income of $45,770.
In contrast, to qualify for government assistance such as the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “Food Stamps”), a family of four (in 2010) can earn no more than $22,050 a year (an average of $424 a week). In addition, SNAP is meant to only supplement, not completely fulfill, a household’s food budget.
Food Wasted in the United States
In the latest study available, the United States Department of Agriculture issued a report in 1997 on its look at food waste throughout the country at the retail, consumer and food service levels only. The study found that of the 356 billion pounds of food available for human consumption in a year in the U.S., 27 percent, or 96 billion pounds, of edible food had gone to waste. This did NOT include the amount of viable food that growers, processors, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors had discarded for various reasons.
All together, regional food banks like Tarrant Area Food Bank prevent several billion pounds of food from going to waste each year by collecting it from grocers, food manufacturers, distributors and other commercial food companies and distributing it to community hunger-relief charities that provide emergency groceries, meals or snacks for individuals and families struggling with hunger. Although awareness of food banks among the commercial food industry has increased greatly since 1997, billions of pounds of food are still being sent to dumps rather than being distributed to feed Americans in need.