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Medical News & Perspectives
September 25, 2002

Not Enough Food (Instead of Too Much) Is Also a Problem in the United States

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JAMA. 2002;288(12):1462-1463. doi:10.1001/jama.288.12.1462-JMN0925-3-1

In the economically upbeat years just prior to the current US recession, too many people in this country went hungry because they had trouble affording food, a new report suggests. And now that times are not as good, say some experts commenting on the study, Hunger and Food Insecurity in the Fifty States: 1998-2000, congressional action spurred by the administration may make things worse.

The report, issued by the Center on Hunger and Poverty at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass, states that more than 11 million households (10.77% of US households), containing more than 33 million individuals, reported experiencing food insecurity and that 3.3 million of these households (3.27%) reported the presence of hunger at home. As defined in the report, food insecurity occurs whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways, is limited or uncertain. Hunger, in the report's language, does not mean simply the pangs that may beset anyone whose dinner is delayed, but refers to the uneasy or painful sensation caused by a recurrent or involuntary lack of food. It is, says the report, "a potential, although not necessary, consequence of food insecurity." Specific at-risk populations in the United States include children, elderly people, immigrants, emergency food assistance recipients, and welfare recipients.

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