Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hunger Figures Show Massive Failure of Food Stamps (Or Fishy Statistics)

Statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture reveal that childhood hunger rates remain high. The U.S. Census Bureau calculates that 29.2 percent of families with children are “food insecure,” to use the agriculture department’s term.  Insofar as 32 million of the 78 million U.S. families have children, this means that some 20 million children live in food insecure households.  

“Twenty million hungry children” should be a shocker. We have expensive and pervasive government programs to eradicate such problems. We have a First Lady, who has put childhood nutrition on the front burner. “Twenty million hungry children” suggests a policy failure of massive proportions. How can we spend such money, effort, and treasure and still have 20 million hungry children, inquiring minds might want to know?

Speaking of cost and effort: Almost fifty million Americans receive food stamps (renamed SNAP). Some one half of these (25 million) are children. We spend $75 billion on food stamps, or $1,500 per recipient. Food stamps cost $4,500 per year to supply a single mother with two children.

Another 32 million school children receive free or highly subsidized meals at schools. The federal, state and local government cost of school meals is some $14 billion, or about $438 per year per recipient. For the single mother with two kids, free school lunches add more than $1,000 to her food budget.

Children living in poor homes are also the beneficiaries of federal aid to families with dependent children, subsidized housing, CHIPS health insurance among other things– all of which free up household income for purchases of food.

The headline: We have 25 million children receiving food stamps and 32 million children receiving school lunches. Nevertheless, we still have 20 million children who are “food insecure.” 

These figures suggest, by the way, that five million non-poor children are on food stamps and 12 million non-poor children get free meals at schools. Food stamps and free lunches have become middle class entitlements.

Either we have a colossal policy failure of our federal food programs or there is something fishy with the federal government’s measure of “hunger.”

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