Yesterday, the United States Department of Agriculture released new food insecurity data. The numbers showed almost no improvement in the national food insecurity rates. The statistics are sobering enough on their own, but truly shocking in juxtaposition to the massive creation of wealth for a relative few as represented by gains in the stock market over the same period that food insecurity progress has stagnated.
This year's rate of food insecurity remains virtually unchanged from last year, with 14.3 percent of American households unable to consistently provide enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle for all of its members.
When the Great Recession hit in full force, low-income and wealthier Americans alike were hit hard. Food insecurity numbers spiked in 2007 (reported in 2008) rising to 14.6 percent (up from 11.1 percent in 2007. The rate would ultimately rise to a record high of 14.9 percent in 2011, the highest on record since the government first started tracking this number in 1995.) At the same time, the stock market was also down. In September 2008, the stock market closed at 11,188, down from its 13,488 close the previous year.
In time, the stock market recovered. Last year, it closed at 14,930 on this day in September. Last night, it closed at 17,137.36. The food insecurity rate, however, did not share this same recovery. The latest numbers show 14.3 percent of Americans were considered food insecure in 2013, statistically unchanged from 14.5 percent the previous year.
Our progress fighting hunger is not sufficient or worthy of a great nation. Millions of children live in families struggling to consistently put enough food on the table. At a time when the world is ever more dangerous, we must recognize that we can't have a strong nation with weak kids.
Making sure children get the healthy food they need isn't just the moral thing to do; it's also the smart thing to do. When kids get the basic food they need, they feel better, learn more and grow up stronger. The simple act of feeding a child can start a chain reaction that impacts graduation rates, health care costs and our future economic competitiveness.
Fortunately, childhood hunger is solvable. Existing programs like school breakfast and summer meals provide a crucial lifeline for kids who need a reliable way to eat every day. Finding efficient, innovative ways to connect kids to these meals is the backbone of Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign strategy. In places where we've seen sufficient political will, such as Maryland and Arkansas, we've seen record levels of participation in food and nutrition programs and reductions in hunger.
The rebounding stock market shows that America knows how to create wealth for a relative few. The lack of progress in addressing hunger and food insecurity shows that we are not as good creating opportunity for all.