New breed of Americans going hungry
By Christie Garton, Special for USA TODAY
Updated 9h 8m ago |
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The recession may officially be over, but Sonia Cruz of Issaquah, Wash., a suburb of Seattle, still finds herself having to say "no" to many things.
No to the kids' request to go to the movies with friends. No to $1 Redbox movies. And definitely no to those trips to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream.
"There's no way we can afford that anymore," she says.
Cutting back became a necessity for many American families during and after the recession. But what the Cruz family and a growing number of other once-thriving middle-class families didn't expect was to find themselves qualifying for — and needing — the support of federally funded food assistance programs.
After job losses, home foreclosures, mounting debt and bills some can no longer afford to pay, families such as theirs have become part of the new face of hunger in America.
Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger-relief charity with a network of more than 200 food bank partners, says there is a growing problem with suburban poverty, "where new clients are individuals who have never needed to rely on the charitable food system."
Hunger has been a challenge in the U.S., even when the economy is running on all cylinders.
At the end of the economic boom in 2007, 13 million people or about 11% of all households were considered "food insecure," the official term used by the government to define one's inability to access an adequate amount of nutritious food at times during the year.
"Not everyone who is food insecure is literally going hungry," says Mark Nord, sociologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. "Some are able to head off hunger by reducing the quality and variety of their diets. But if food insecurity is severe or prolonged, it is likely to result in hunger."