The First Course / Hunger, Food Insecurity, & Poverty: Part Two

part one first course

Poverty and hunger are so closely interwoven that it is nearly impossible to address one without acknowledging the other. So why then do we separate them rather than working to end them at the same time? Poverty is a cause of hunger but hunger is also a cause of poverty. There cannot be one without the other so we should always keep this in mind when we are thinking about ways we can help end one or the other.

First we will look at what poverty looks like. The most recent figures given by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014 put the poverty threshold for a family of four at $24,008. For a single person, under the age of 65, that number goes down to $12,316. How many in poverty does this translate to in the U.S.? Most would cite the number at 14.8% of the population, or about 46.7 million Americans. Notice how closely these numbers align with the statistics we gave about hunger in the last post.

So what are some of the causes of poverty? There are many factors that come together to result in poverty, but they can be summed up as resource availability, unequal wealth/income distribution, conflict, and also hunger.

The first, resource availability, relies on several things. Are there jobs available and where are they located? Is there economic development occurring in a neighborhood or is it becoming abandoned? Is public transportation available and reliable? Are other basic resources accessible such as health care, food, and housing? These factors contribute to poverty, particularly availability and location of jobs. The second cause of poverty, unequal wealth/income distribution is a result of not only government policies but individual company practices. The third cause of poverty, conflict, basically means conflict such as wars or even natural disasters contribute significantly to poverty by destroying infrastructure, putting a strain on resources, and shifting national priorities. The fourth cause, hunger, is both a result of and a source for poverty. Hunger fosters poverty by diminishing the abilities of those it affects. Individuals suffering from hunger routinely perform worse than their peers in a variety of areas and experience the lack of energy and poor health that also diminishes performance along with other debilitating consequences.

Poverty can be transformed through policy. Social programs like SNAP and WIC work to alleviate some of the symptoms of poverty, as do homeless shelters and government housing, yet they do not solve the problem or even make any real steps toward eradicating poverty. It is only through serious change in other policy areas affecting wages and distribution of wealth that can begin to create the path for change.

In next week’s post we will be looking at how food insecurity is defined in relation to hunger and poverty as well as some of the reasons it comes about.

written by Gabrielle Miller

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