Food Insecurity and Hunger in America

Monday, April 14, 2014

A client of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger food pantry fills up a box with food on July 24, 2013 in New York City. The food pantry assists thousands of qualifying New York residents. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

For this week’s installment of our series Strapped: A Look at Poverty in America, Joel Berg, Executive Director of New York City Coalition Against Hunger talks about food insecurity, hunger, and obesity among the poor in New York and across the country.

The term “food insecurity,” Joel Berg said, “is the best description of hunger in American context. People rationing food, choosing between food and rent, choosing between food and health care, parents going without meals to feed their children, children sometimes having to go through the dumpsters in back of their school to get a meal.”

If people can’t afford enough food, they often end up buying cheap food. “There’s no question that hunger and obesity are flip sides of the same malnutrition coin. If you can’t afford healthier food which of often more expensive, if you live in a low-income neighborhood where you can’t even find healthier food, there’s no question that one of the top coping strategies is to buy less healthy, less expensive food that you can just fill your bellies, fill your kids’ bellies, more calories but its less healthy. That’s why we have this amazing irony in America: you can be food insecure, you can be hungry, you can be low-income, and you can still be overweight.”

Compared to other industrialized nations, the United States has the highest rate of food insecurity—49 million people, including 16  million children, live in food insecure households in this country. SNAP benefits (food stamps), WIC benefits, and free and reduced school lunch and breakfast are some of the federal programs that many food insecure families depend on. Berg said the recent cuts to SNAP benefits are having an impact, making it harder for food stamp recipients to buy enough food for the month.

Berg sees hunger as a political issue, and that reducing hunger requires advocacy and action. “If you really want to end hunger in America, you need to join with groups like New York City Coalition Against Hunger to fight for living wage jobs, to fight for an adequate safety net, to ensure that eligible families get the nutrition assistance they deserve,” Berg said. “And that’s what’s going to end this problem in America.”


Joel Berg

Comments [12]

mehboob alam from Pakistan

Hi I am running a orphan house in Pakistan. And I have 37 orphan children in my orphan house. I need your help. So could you please give me some food support to help these children.

Jun. 27 2014 12:47 PM

Hear…hear, Doug from Brooklyn!!

Apr. 14 2014 01:44 PM


The world issue of hunger is not an issue of here not being enough food produced/available. It's an issue of ACCESS!

Worldwide, there is ENOUGH food, it's the political machinery that keeps poor people from accessing it.

Please wake up.

Apr. 14 2014 01:43 PM
Doug from Brooklyn

The lucidity and depth of Joel Bergs facts on this issue are undeniable.

Anybody who sees anything in his remarks aside from a desire to solve hunger and poverty is themselves politicized and delusional.

If one half of our leaders shared one half of this man's honesty and priorities, our country would be infinitely better off.

Keep your fatalistic and thus pointless comments to yourselves.

If you care, support this man and his organization. Otherwise, shut up and get out of the way. You're part of the problem.

Apr. 14 2014 01:42 PM

Republicans want to help the Poor. They want to help people without work.

Here's how.

The 13th Amendment and the Peonage Act of 1867 bar the INvoluntary servitude of American citizens. VOLUNTARY servitude of documented immigrants without citizenship is allowed. VOLUNTARY servitude of US citizens, working for food and shelter only, is also allowed.

Republicans in state houses have proposed laws to make it easier for Americans to VOLUNTEER to work for only food and shelter. Although
voluntary servitude is already legal, Republican state legislators have
proposed laws to specifically prevent such volunteers from suing for
wages. That way the job makers in the USA, like fast food restaurants,
will be protected from lawsuits. Republicans also believe legislation
like this will go a long way towards solving the servant problem.

Apr. 14 2014 01:37 PM

How 'bout the phenomena of hipster food pornography and the food-as-spectator-sport Food Netowrk® nonsense in light of these crushing hunger numbers??

Apr. 14 2014 01:36 PM

Very important discussion. Mr. Berg is eloquent and passionate. However, I wish he would stop politicizing the problem. Hunger not really about being “right” or “left,” and it doesn’t help to bring up divisive political ideology in this context. Rather than angry and restless rhetoric, Mr. Berg might think about using a tone that is more conciliatory. Also, he might emphasize ideas that illustrate constructive and cooperative(!) solutions.

Apr. 14 2014 01:32 PM
Stephen from NYC

Teach a man to fish, you have a job for a day. Give a man a fish, you have a job for life.

Apr. 14 2014 01:31 PM

Modern Republicans CARE. Their proposals come from English literature. In some states, Republicans want to eliminate all laws protecting working children. They want to bring back work houses like in "David Copperfield" and "Oliver Twist".

Picture America's orphans gainfully employed in work houses. They would be better treated than children currently imprisoned in Florida and Texas.

Apr. 14 2014 01:28 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Since the time of the Pharaohs, if not eons beforehand, the elites have ALWAYS controlled the lion's share of the assets of the country. The peasants were lucky to scrape the barest of livelihoods from the earth. This railing against "the 1%" is like the dogs baying at the moon and just as effective. The rich can go live anywhere. Plenty of nice towns and cities on this planet. We're lucky to have 53 billionaires and wish another 53 would come.

Apr. 14 2014 01:19 PM
Rob from Park Slope

Glad he called out the Dems and Sen Gillebrand in particular voted for billions in cuts to SNAP, and yet the zombies keep supporting the dems Howie Hawkins Green for Governor!

Apr. 14 2014 01:12 PM
Linda from Harlem

Stop the milliojns for donald trump golf course in queens and stop $200 million in corporate subsidies to fresh direct and redirect to other programs

Apr. 14 2014 01:11 PM

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