Surging hunger in the US signals alarming trend as food aid cuts take toll

As vital food aid programs expire, millions of Americans face rising hunger challenges, reveals Hunger Free America's 2023 National Hunger Survey Report.

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A new report by Hunger Free America (HFA) has exposed a troubling surge in food insecurity across the United States, marking a significant reversal from the previously declining trend in hunger. This change is largely attributed to the expiration of critical federal programs such as the expanded Child Tax Credit and universal school meals. The 2023 National Hunger Survey Report, released on Wednesday, highlights the stark reality of a nation struggling with growing hunger amidst soaring living costs.

According to HFA, the number of Americans struggling to secure sufficient food over a seven-day period was on average 40% higher in the fall of 2023 compared to two years prior, escalating from 19.7 million to 27.8 million. This alarming increase has been primarily attributed to the cessation of federal benefit enhancements, even as prices for essentials like food, rent, healthcare, and fuel continue to spike.

The report highlights several disturbing trends:

  • A significant spike in food insecurity among children, with states like Delaware, Nebraska, Texas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Louisiana reporting the highest rates.
  • A notable prevalence of food insecurity among employed adults, particularly in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.
  • A concerning level of food insecurity among older Americans, with Louisiana leading this grim statistic.
  • A contrast with states like New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, Colorado, and North Dakota reporting the lowest rates of food insecurity.

HFA CEO Joel Berg has called this report a “jarring wake-up call” for leaders at all levels of government. The report follows federal data indicating a doubling of the U.S. child poverty rate in 2022, a situation exacerbated by the expiration of the expanded Child Tax Credit – a key element of the American Rescue Plan initiated by President Joe Biden.

The opposition from conservative lawmakers, notably Senator Joe Manchin and congressional Republicans, has been a critical factor in the discontinuation of these essential programs. These policy reversals have come at a time of dire need for millions of Americans, eroding the progress made in recent years in combating hunger and poverty in the country.

The HFA’s analysis, based on USDA food insecurity data, further reveals that states like Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina have consistently been among the top ten states with the highest rates of food insecurity across various demographics.

Additionally, the report sheds light on the concerning nonparticipation rates in crucial programs like SNAP, WIC, and school breakfast programs. The data reveals a large gap between eligibility and participation, highlighting the need for more robust outreach and support mechanisms to ensure that those in need can access these vital resources.

In light of these findings, HFA advocates for immediate and decisive action at the federal level. Policy recommendations include the passage of the HOPE Act of 2021, reauthorization of the Child Tax Credit, and full funding of the WIC program, including increased allotments for fruits and vegetables.

As Berg poignantly notes, the rise in hunger is a predictable outcome of the withdrawal of government support in food and financial aid. This crisis calls for an urgent and comprehensive response from political leaders to strengthen the safety net, raise wages, and ensure that all Americans have access to adequate, nutritious food.

This report serves as a critical call to action, urging policymakers to reevaluate and reinstate effective measures to combat hunger. It underscores the necessity of a strong, sustained commitment to public policies that address the root causes of food insecurity and promote equitable access to food for all.

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