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Study: More Than 46 Million Americans Rely on Food Programs

By Michelle Smith   |   Monday, 18 Aug 2014 03:46 PM

The United States has allegedly been in the midst of an economic recovery for five years. Yet, one in seven Americans can't afford basic nutrition, a new report from the non-profit Feeding America reveals.

More than 46 million people rely on food programs, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, school lunch programs, senior citizens' Meals on Wheels deliveries, or other food initiatives to supplement their daily diet, according to the study.

Aid recipients are a "complex and growing mosaic that cuts across demographic lines," including 12 million children, 7 million seniors, plus millions of working poor, military families, the unemployed, and young college graduates, National Geographic reported.

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From 1995 to 2008, the number of Americans who were food insecure remained fairly steady in the range of 10 to 12 percent of the population. However, in 2008, during the midst of the recession, the number spiked to 14.6 percent and government statistics reveal the level of hunger hasn't declined since.

Hunger persists despite falling unemployment because of the disparity between inflation and income. The costs of living, including food, have continued to rise, yet wages have not, according to The Huffington Post.

The Hunger in America study involved over 60,000 interviews, and the median household income among respondents was a mere $9,175 a year.

Of the 15.5 million households Feeding America serves, 66 percent said they've had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care, while 69 percent have had to choose between paying for utilities and paying for food.

Still, many of these people do not have adequate access to healthy food.

Specifically, 79 percent of the survey participants reported buying the cheapest food possible though they knew it wasn't always the healthiest. Such habits create larger problems because processed foods and junk food fuel chronic health problems including obesity.

"We find it particularly staggering that more than half of the households that we are serving report that someone has hypertension, and a third have diabetes," Maura Daly, a spokesperson for Feeding America, told National Geographic.

"We know that these are chronic diseases that are intricately related to food intake — not just accessing food but accessing nutritious food. It's really illuminating why hunger is a public health issue," she added.

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