More than 15% of Americans go hungry

A man named R.J. holds a piece of bread as he eats a free meal provided by St. Anthony foundation on September 16, 2010 in San Francisco, Calif.

Kai Ryssdal: There's a report out today from the Department of Agriculture on Americans who don't have enough to eat. The absolute number of people going hungry in this country is holding steady, but only because of programs like food stamps and free school lunches.

Marketplace's Alisa Roth reports.

Alisa Roth: The government says that last year almost 33 million Americans were what it calls "food-insecure." That is, essentially, they couldn't afford to eat right. An additional 16 million people were "very food-insecure," which means they couldn't always afford to eat enough.

That's about the same as it's been since the economic crisis began, when the number of Americans at risk of hunger went up dramatically.

Chris Ruhm is an economics professor at the University of Virginia. He says it's important to know how many people were hungry last year, but the real question is this:

Chris Ruhm: If we look over the next year, are you concerned that you're not going to have enough to eat?

He says the deterioration of the employment picture over the last couple of months is worrying.

Mark Edwards is a sociology professor at Oregon State University. He says:

Mark Edwards: Even if you have people finding jobs, if those are not jobs that pay well, they may still remain food-insecure.

His concern is that these levels of hunger could become the new normal.

I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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Apparently, hard times breed cynicism. ("Does this mean the obesity rate will go down?") Yes, there is abuse of the system. But not by children, who do not get to chose their circumstances - or their parents. No child should have to go hungry in this county. If that means inevitable abuse of the system, so be it.

I recall a statistic that nearly 25% of the nation's children now also go hungry. These are very tough times and frightening statistics. Add to this the income inequality, and one wonders if the resolution of our economic problems will result in a plutocracy and everyone else - the "new normal".

Does this mean the obesity rate will go down?

Maybe government figures show that many people don't have enough food. Reality is different, people are greedy and simply use government's funds and programs for their own advantage. There are many who are singed for multiple programs in order to get free food, health care inshurance, unemployment benefits while working under the table and living lavish life, etc. The main point is: that people always will be people, and if it is possiple to benefit from something there is no doubt almost everyone will benefit. We need to make strict regulations and cut a lot of funds to abusers. Lastly, make health care figures happy about obesity rate from hunger in US.

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