The Dynamics of Social Welfare Policy

By Joel Blau | Go to book overview

12
Food and Hunger: Programs and Policies

U.S. food policy revolves around a great paradox. Just as the United States has a significant number of poor and near poor people in a nation of great wealth, it has hunger and food insecurity in a land of extraordinary abundance. The connection between poverty and hunger might seem quite natural in other countries, where famines, civil wars, and frequent crop fail- ures disrupt the supply of food and reduce a largely agricultural population to desperation. In the United States, however, an abundance of food accentuates the paradox underlying the existence of hunger. After all, the United States is the world's breadbasket—the biggest exporter of wheat and corn and the third biggest exporter of rice. So abundant is our food supply that even while retailers, consumers, and restaurants discard 25 percent of their produce, Americans still spend less on their food—8 percent of income—than anyone else.1The implications are dismaying. In a land where food is cheap and plentiful, the paradox of hunger amid abundance looms even larger than the paradox of poverty amid wealth.

Yet hunger is different from other social problems. At some point on the route to becoming a social problem, crime, drugs, and unprotected sex pro- duce a payoff or pleasure. But hunger has no payoff, and no one, apart from panic dieters, ever seeks to be hungry. Unlike other social problems, then, the hungry do not have to contend with uncontrollable impulses or addic- tions. Even while the hungry continue to be stigmatized for their poverty,

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