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Politics and Economy:
Life on the Edge
More on This Story:
Hunger Facts

NOW's broadcast LIFE ON THE EDGE tells the stories of families living in Oregon, a state found by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have a high rate of "food insecurity" and hunger. (Find out about food insecurity rates in your state.)

According to the USDA, food insecurity is: "limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways."

Below are recent statistics on families and food in the United States. They are drawn from U.S.D.A. studies updating the 1999 report and from America's Second Harvest's record of clients served. America's Second Harvest is the nation's largest domestic hunger relief organization. We also tell you more about the families featured in LIFE ON THE EDGE.

De Ette Peck
De Ette Peck

De Ette Peck is a single mother of two girls. She worked as a waitress and bartender in the same restaurant for more than seven years. For years neither she nor her ex-husband could get benefits for their children or even put food on the table. She has gone through a transition program and is now studying for her masters' degree in nursing. She also is part of a poverty action team which helps others in her situation.

  • (on her support network) "Some months I have extra money but other months it's just barely making ends meet. I have great friends and great families. I would never trade any of them for a million dollars because this is why I'm succeeding in my present time. My mom and even my exes are helping with my daughters and their schedules. The many friends I've made in the past year, good quality friends and it's because of school that I've met these people and it's because of these people that I am succeeding."

  • (on making ends meet) "School supplies, every fall we have to spend 30 to 40 dollars, on pencils and paper and markers. We used to get [those] in school already [because] tax payers already paid for the school to get [them]. We, now, as parents, have to buy these things for our children because the schools don't have them anymore. I struggle with that. My oldest needs a sketch book now because they are studying art. It's hard, it's hard to make sure. I want to get them in activities and can't that is an extra 50 dollars that I don't have."

  • (on her future) "It was like opening a flower. I learned that community nursing is exactly what I want to do. I want to get out and be in the low income communities and help them find resources they don't find because no one is out there to help advocate for them. I like going down to Salem and talking to legislatures about the programs and trying to fight for people who couldn't fight for themselves. I come to food pantries to make sure people are getting the food that they need and other resources they need. I have gone to health fairs. I also am a mentor at the transitions program because transitions gave me so much ambition and direction in what I want. I help displaced homemakers, I help single moms make sure they are finding the resources they need trying to intertwine school into everyday life because that is a big step."

  • Food in America

    % of U.S. household that were food insecure in 2000:  10.5% (U.S.D.A)
    # of Americans food insecure in 2000:  33 million
    # of American children food insecure in 2000:  13 million (18% of all children)
    % America's Second Harvest (ASH) clients who are U.S. citizens:  93.1%
    % of client household with one or more working adults:  38.9%
    % of clients living in suburban and rural areas  46.9%
    % of clients who have completed high school or beyond:  62.8%
    % of client households with at least one child under 18:  38.7%
    Sources: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (which has many studies on food insecurity available on their web site); America's Second Harvest; and the Center for Hunger and Poverty at Brandeis University.

    Hunger Resources:

    Almanac of Policy Issues
    A project of Policy News Publishing, The Almanac of Policy Issues provides comprehensive links and background information on major U.S. public policy issues. The site contains this entry on "Food and Nutrition" as well as links to related sites, issues, and articles.

    America's Second Harvest
    America's Second Harvest is the nation's largest domestic hunger relief organization. The site includes in-depth fact sheets on hunger in America, a section focusing on childhood hunger, an in-depth treatment of public policy, and information on finding your local food bank or food-rescue program.

    Center on Hunger and Poverty
    The Center on Hunger and Poverty, part of The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, promotes policies that improve the lives and developmental capacities of low-income children and families in the nation. Center programs fall into two categories: The Food Security Institute, which includes federal and state data, a guide to recent studies, and explanations and definitions of various elements of Food Security Measurement; and the Asset Development Institute, which contains information on events and initiatives, and copies of publications.

    Food Security in the United States
    The Economic Research Service (ERS) is the main source of economic information and research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, intended to inform and enhance public and private decision making on economic and policy issues related to agriculture, food, natural resources, and rural development. The site provides explanations, complete with graphs and charts, of conditions and trends, measuring food security, household survey tools, community food security. Also available are links to recent reports and recommended reading.

    Hunger in the US
    This site is from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). FRAC is a nonprofit and nonpartisan research and public policy center that serves as the hub of an anti-hunger network of thousands of individuals and agencies across the country. Sections of the site include: Federal Response to Hunger; Hunger & Poverty; Health Consequences of Hunger; Public Attitudes Toward Hunger; National Statistics; Recent Hunger Studies.

    Oregon Food Bank
    The Oregon Food Bank provides statistics about hunger in Oregon and related information on income and poverty levels. The site also includes details on the Food Bank's work to make a difference.

    World Hunger Notes
    Hunger Notes is a quarterly print, and online publication of World Hunger Education Service. The site offers a fairly large catalog of recent articles about hunger issues.

    "The Myth of Widespread American Poverty"
    The Heritage Foundation, September 18, 1998

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