Editorial: Hunger in US still shameful

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, July 5, 2018

There are many reasons to be proud of our country, one of the richest and most fortunate in the world. But that millions of people, many of them children and the elderly, face hunger daily is not one of them.

In comparison to other advanced economies, the U.S. had high levels of hunger even during the first few years of the 21st century, due in part to greater inequality and relatively less spending on welfare. As was generally the case across the world, hunger in the U.S. was made worse by the global inflation in food prices since 2006 and the Great Recession starting in 2008.

That we as a nation allow this to persist is shameful.

When talking about modern “food insecurity,” it’s hard not to recall the ancient proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

All things being equal, that sounds like the best way to approach hunger. Today, that may mean other sorts of governmental programs that can raise people out of poverty: equal education, job training, addiction treatment and recovery to name a few.

Millions who can’t afford to buy enough to eat are working-class folks on the brink of poverty. The situation does not seem to be getting better, and the approach by the ruling party in Washington seems disinclined to provide more fish or to teach fishing.

Until they do, locally we do what we can to ease those immediate and real hunger pains with our many town and church food pantries, fund drives and through the umbrella effort of the nonprofit Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in Hatfield.

Helping in other ways are survival centers and food programs, as well as people like radio personality Monte Belmonte, who belongs to the Coalition to End Hunger and holds his own Monte’s March fundraiser from Springfield to Greenfield each year.

The majority of people who are food insecure are hovering above the poverty line, and most are children, which is deplorable. One in 10 people older than 60 in western Massachusetts gets food stamps.

Congressman James McGovern has been a major and consistent advocate for food programs in Washington and a fundraiser and consciousness-raiser in the First Congressional District.

“So much focus in Washington is for cutting programs, like SNAP (food stamps),” he said recently. “It’s frustrating to see programs cut that need to be expanded.”

“There are some things you can live without,” McGovern commented. “Food isn’t one of them.”

“Kids who go to school hungry don’t learn,” he noted.

“It is costing us billions not to solve this problem,” he concluded. “My goal is to put the food banks out of business so we don’t need them anymore.”

That should be everyone’s goal, as well.