10% of Americans are hungry. Or are they?

I’ve heard that from my church. I saw it in the grocery store. I’ve seen it on billboards.

Let me ask you a question. Wouldn’t you think if a person were hungry, that they would be in poverty? I would think that if you were out of poverty, that you wouldn’t be hungry unless you chose. And I don’t care if you choose to be hungry. I only care if you are hungry and can’t not be hungry.

Disclosure: when I was young, we often had little money. I remember being hungry. I remember having no food in the house and being hungry on a regular basis through fifth grade. So I know what it is to be hungry.

So I went looking for where this mythical 10% is coming from. It sure is bad if 10% of Americans are going hungry and we as a people aren’t helping them.

There are 350 million people in the US. There are 206,000 at the poverty line or below. Ten percent of 350 million is 35 million. We don’t even have one percent of our population who are at the poverty level. That would be 3.5 million. In fact, we have less than .01% of our population who is at the poverty level.

I found an article that said that 26 million people receive food stamps. I hate to tell you this, but if they get food stamps, they aren’t going hungry.

I also saw the government questions which lead to determining that 10% of Americans go hungry or, more accurately, are food insecure.

The 18 questions and my responses

Worried food would run out before (I/we) got money to buy more
I often worry that the food will run out before we have money to buy more. Does that mean it will? No. Does that mean I don’t have enough food? No. It just means I worry.

Food bought didn’t last and (I/we) didn’t have money to get more
That has happened to me in the past. Maybe even recently. A lot of time that is because I have done something else with my money, like gone out to a restaurant, instead of buying groceries. I have even had to buy groceries on a credit card because I didn’t have cash. Does that mean I was in danger of going hungry? No.

Couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals
I have rarely been able to afford to eat balanced meals, because the food costs more than I am willing to pay. Plus, you have to go to the grocery store more often to get the fresh foods that give you the green parts of your meal.

Adult(s) cut size of meals or skipped meals
I have cut the size of my meals or skipped meals a lot recently. I am trying to lose weight. But it didn’t ask if I am trying to lose weight. It just asked if I’ve cut the size of my meals or skipped them. In fact, at some times in my life, I was fasting regularly. Does that mean I am poor? No. It means I’m religious.

Respondent ate less than felt he/she should
I often eat less than I feel I should (if by that you mean how much I want). I just ate lunch and I ate less than I felt I should, even though I had a full bowl of chili, a salad, two cheese sticks, and four chips. Yes, I remember a time when the answer to that question would have meant we did not have enough food, but now it wouldn’t.

Adult(s) cut size or skipped meals in 3 or more months
Er, yeah. Been dieting for years.

Respondent hungry but didn’t eat because couldn’t afford
Yeah. I couldn’t afford the calories. And sometimes it’s because I don’t think I can afford what I am hungry for (maybe that $100 steak).

Respondent lost weight
I have. Done that almost every year since 1988. It’s a terrible thing… that I don’t lose more.

Adult(s) did not eat for whole day
Yes. I did mention fasting, didn’t I?

Adult(s) did not eat for whole day in 3 or more months
Yes again. See above.

Relied on few kinds of low-cost food to feed child(ren)
Yes. Because that is all my kids will eat.

Couldn’t feed child(ren) balanced meals
Yes, because they wouldn’t eat them.

Child(ren) were not eating enough
Absolutely not, especially of protein. (My children are vegetarians.)

Cut size of child(ren)’s meals
Okay, I don’t think I did this. Unless you count telling my son he couldn’t eat a whole box of Wheat Thins in one sitting. So, er, yes, I did.

Child(ren) were hungry
Children are often hungry. I would certainly answer yes to that question.

Child(ren) skipped meals
Yes. I don’t make my kids eat. My eldest usually skips breakfast. And my youngest sometimes fasts for a meal.

Child(ren) skipped meals in 3 or more months
Yes. My eldest doesn’t eat breakfast.

Child(ren) did not eat for whole day
I think that has happened when my kids were sick. Probably even in the last year. So, yes.

Why would someone fill it out that way?

I know why I would. I would fill it out that way because it is the government and everyone knows you have to be careful what you say to the government and I would make sure that I was being absolutely truthful with every answer. I wouldn’t want them to come back and say, “Hey, your kid said he doesn’t eat breakfast. You lied.”

Maybe other people think there is a benefit to them (like those food stamps) of filling it out that way.

People who are saying that 35 million people in the US are hungry are either lying or it’s not quite dinner time. And that includes the people who came up with this survey.

Update: The surveyors add that the questions (which they don’t include) explicitly state because there was not money to buy food. After reading through the report, that is true. (It wasn’t clear from the percentage tables.) So perhaps I would have answered the questions differently.

So here is another question, have you ever run out of money for food because you bought something else? I have. I bought books. But I know other people who bought alcohol, cigarettes, clothes, or trips. Does it count as being food insecure if it is the fault of the responsible person that there wasn’t food money? I don’t think it ought to. But there is nothing in there that asks what they spent the money on that they had.

I still don’t think that 10% of Americans are hungry.

My son would eat Taco Bell for breakfast but I don’t think that is a good use of my money, so I won’t buy it. Does that mean there is not money for food?