According to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 50 million Americans had a hard time putting food on the table in 2008 -- one in seven American households, an increase of 13 million people the year before.
The report also said that 17 million children nationwide did not have enough to eat last year.
President Obama expressed concern that the report showed that hunger rates were at their highest since first recorded in 1995.
In this video, NewsHour correspondent reports on the new findings from the Agriculture Department and then speaks to two regional food bank experts about how they have seen hunger play out at food banks in their communities during the recession.
"The recession is hitting people that -- it's surprising a lot of us. And all of us here are feeling it in one or another. And we know people who have either lost their homes, lost their jobs. It's -- you know, it's shaking us to the core." - Cynthia Sibley, Simple Supper
"37 years ago, I was working with food stamps in Prince George's County. And we saw cuts in the food stamp program then, and the dramatic effect it had in the country at that point. And we have never really recovered or rebounded. But, back then, we were an emergency system. Now we have become an essential part of a family's being able to make it. It's a woman with children trying to make ends meet. It's a senior citizen who is living on a very minimum income. It's people who are losing their homes or losing their jobs. And it's being compounded now with the economy over and over again." - Lynn Brantley, President & CEO, Capital Area Food Bank
"A food-insecure family, which is what these 49 million are, is a family where often the parents will cut back before they cut back for the kids. But, often, these kids are in situations where they come home after school, and there's nothing in the pantry. " - J.C. Dwyer, Texas Food Bank Network
1. Define hunger.
2. How many Americans do you think experience hunger every year?
3. Where do families who can't afford enough food find help?
1. Did it surprise you to learn that there are so many hungry Americans in 2008 compared to the previous year? Why or why not?
2. In the report, what reasons were given for the dramatic increase in Americans who did not have enough to eat in 2008? Have you seen evidence of this in your own community?
3. What role should the federal government play in helping Americans who have difficulty putting food on the table?
4. What role do charities play? How are charities affected by the recession?
5. Do you think that the government should take a bigger or smaller role in helping hungry families? Why?