Sunday, June 17, 2007

Care About Security? How About Food Security?

Yesterday, I saw this in The Register. And as soon as I saw this, I was stopped in my tracks.

Roughly 2.5 million low-income adults in California can't afford to adequately feed their families, resulting in health problems and household stress, according to a UCLA report released this week.

The report measures food insecurity, which can range from reduced quality or variety of diet to skipping meals because of costs. In 2005, 30 percent of low-income adults statewide reported choosing between food and other basic needs, according to data from the California Health Interview Study. Among them, 9 percent experienced a disruption in eating habits or skipped meals. The study did not include the homeless.

In Orange County, the UCLA report says an estimated 190,000 low-income adults struggle to buy food, and about 36,000 people sometimes go hungry. The numbers don't include children.

Oh my goodness! 2.5 million people in California can't afford to feed their families? And 190,000 of them are in "wealthy" Orange County? 145,000 of them in San Bernardino County? 740,000 of them in LA County? What's happening to these people who can't afford to eat? Why is this happening? And what can we do to solve this problem?

Follow me down below for more...

(Cross-posted at Calitics)

So why exactly is this happening? The UCLA report offers a harrowing answer:

"Food expenditures are the most flexible item in household budgets and are frequently squeezed when income dips or unemployment strikes."

So these people are having to give up food as they try to scrape up the cash to pay for the mortgage or the rent, as well as the electric bill, and the heating bill, and the water bill, and all those other expenses. They're having to forgo one of the most basic human needs in order to provide for other basic human needs. Doesn't this seem disturbing? This shouldn't be happening. No one should be going hungry. Not in this nation, not in this state, not in any of our communities.

After all, this creates huge societal problems. Hunger does not only cause a growling tummy. So what can happen when people can't eat? Oh, the children just can't get educated while the adults don't get proper health care.

Back to The Register:

According to the research, children living in households without a sufficient food supply miss more school and experience more emotional problems. Adults are more likely to feel anxious or depressed. Additionally, families are more likely to forgo medical care and filling prescriptions, which affects their overall health.

While it may seem counterintuitive, adults living in households with a shortage of quality food were more likely to be overweight, according to the brief. As a solution, the report recommends helping households receive federally funded help, such as food stamps and child nutrition programs.

We all know the value of education. We know the value of good, preventive health care. We all know the value of good mental and emotional health. This is why we can't all these poor folks go hungry. Their hunger only contributes to greater problems for them, and for others.

So what can be done about this? What can we do to help these people afford something to eat? Well, maybe can support something like the NOURISH Act. The report suggested that the federal government step up its aid for these poor people who can't help themselves in providing food for the family table. Well, Rep. Joe Baca (D-San Bernardino) has come up with a solution here.

Now I may not always see eye to eye with Joe Baca, but this time he's totally right on:

“We have a moral obligation to feed the hungry. The NOURISH Act includes many provisions to expand assistance to families and improve access for eligible underserved populations. I also propose increasing funding for food banks which provide important help when government programs are not sufficient to meet the rising demands of American families facing hunger.”

We really need to do something about this hidden crisis. The US is supposed to be the richest nation on earth, and California is supposed to be one of the richest states in this nation. And yet, some 2.5 million people struggle to afford feeding their families. This just shouldn't be happening.

The NOURISH Act sounds like a good start toward solving this problem. Perhaps we should thank Joe Baca for this good legislation. And maybe, we should write our representatives, and urge them to support Baca's legislation. We just can't let any more people needlessly go hungry.

No comments: