National Geographic : 2014 Aug
#futureoffood 73 Keagan and Cheyenne Dreier have the toys and trappings of a middle-class life, but their parents rely on donated foods—typically processed—to feed them. “It’s not like we can eat all healthy,” says mom Christina. With junk food plentiful and often cheap, hunger and obesity are now parallel problems. someone like Christina Dreier: white, married, clothed, and housed, even a bit overweight. The image of hunger in America today differs mark- edly from Depression-era images of the gaunt- faced unemployed scavenging for food on urban streets. “ This is not your grandmother’s hunger,” says Janet Poppendieck, a sociologist at the City University of New York. “ Today more working people and their families are hungry because wages have declined.” In the United States more than half of hun- gry households are white, and two-thirds of those with children have at least one working adult—typically in a full-time job. With this new image comes a new lexicon: In 2006 the U.S. government replaced “hunger” with the term “food insecure” to describe any household where, sometime during the previous year, peo- ple didn’t have enough food to eat. By whatever name, the number of people going hungry has grown dramatically in the U.S., increasing to 48 million by 2012—a fivefold jump since the late 1960s, including an increase of 57 percent since the late 1990s. Privately run programs like food pantries and soup kitchens have mushroomed too. In 1980 there were a few hundred emer- gency food programs across the country; today there are 50,000. Finding food has become a central worry for millions of Americans. One in six reports running out of food at least once a year. In many European countries, by contrast, the number is closer to one in 20. To witness hunger in America today is to enter a twilight zone where refrigerators are so frequently bare of all but mustard and ketch- up that it provokes no remark, inspires no AMY TOENSING Learn more about the Dreier family and their struggles on our digital editions.