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Americans Increasingly Worried About Hunger

Haider Rizvi

NEW YORK- People with low income in the United
States are feeling increasingly insecure about their ability to buy
food, according to a new study released by an independent research

"As the economy continues its downward trend, concerns about hunger
will only intensify," said Jim Weill, president of the Washington,
DC-based Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), which published the
study Thursday.

The research indicates that a substantial majority of working
families have lost their trust in the federal government's ability to
address the issue of growing levels of hunger and that the next
administration must pay close attention to it.

The study's findings show there is strong public opinion in favor of
the need for a comprehensive debate among candidates for the White House and other public offices on the issue of hunger and food insecurity.

"This is an issue that candidates have not focused on, but one that
needs to be part of the political debate for president," Weill added in
a statement. "Voters deserve to hear exactly where candidates stand and
their plans to address the problem."

The FRAC poll found more than three in five voters seemed more likely to support a presidential candidate
who makes fighting hunger a top priority and nearly nine out of 10 said
that support for hunger issues is important when voting for a member of Congress.

The report's authors said 94 percent of respondents believe it's
important for the federal government to fund anti-hunger programs,
including school lunches and special nutrition programs for women and infants.

They said polls also showed that more than 60 percent of people were in favor of a temporary increase in monthly food stamp benefits as part of an economic stimulus package, adding that last year about 27 percent of people expressed their concerns about food insecurity.

By contrast, they said, the percentage of people with at least slight worries about food has risen to 57 percent.

Citing a 2007 survey commissioned by Hormel Foods, researchers said
over 50 percent of Americans do not believe that, as a country, the
United States is adequately protecting its people from going hungry.

Though critical of the lack of an effective federal policy on food
security, some non-profit groups are taking innovative steps to address
the problem of hunger at home and abroad.

Last month, for example, the international humanitarian aid group Action Against Hunger joined hands with Weight Watchers,
a well-known provider of weight management services, to launch a new
campaign aiming to involve affluent Americans to improve their health
through good nutrition while providing food for the poor.

Through the nationwide campaign, billed as "Lose for Good,"
Weight Watchers has pledged to donate the cost of one pound of food --
up to a ceiling of $1 million -- for each pound of weight their members

"[It is] to further inspire [our] members as they take the first
step on a journey towards improving their well-being," said Weight
Watchers president David Kirchhoff, "In doing so, they will help others
by converting their weight loss into another person's gain."

In a statement, Nan Dale, executive direction of Action Against
Hunger, appreciated Weight Watchers' move and expressed hope that its
philanthropic effort would help reduce hunger in the United States and
40 other countries.

"By coupling the reward of improved personal health with the knowledge that members' efforts will help feed malnourished children around the globe," Dale said, "the campaign is truly an innovative, win-win initiative."

According to the organization Food Not Bombs,
every year, about 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United
States. Experts say about 30 million people in the United States could
be fed with just 1 out of every 25 pounds of wasted food.

In a 2006 report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture
acknowledged that more than 35 million people in the United States were
threatened by hunger. Of them, about 13 million were children, with
most in non-white working families.

Official studies show Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Arizona as some of the states that continue to have the highest rates of food insecurity.


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