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Hunger in America

Hunger in America

Introduction

Holocaust victim Anne Frank once said, “Hunger is not a problem. It is an obscenity. How wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world”. Since the beginning of time, hunger has affected many populations across the globe. Hunger, as a social problem in America, was realized in the early twentieth century after the First World War. Until today, the problem is still affecting America. The problem contains two categories: poor food insecurities and insufficient nutritional intake (United State Department of Agriculture, 2009). In poor food securities, the affected social group (low-income earners) in America cannot afford to buy food, thus suffers from hunger. In the case of insufficient nutritional intake, the affected group rarely takes a balanced meal of nutritional value. Eventually, they end up suffering from malnutrition diseases. According to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the rates of people suffering from hunger are still high despite the rising economy after 2008 financial crisis (United State Department of Agriculture, 2009). It is, therefore, relevant to review whether there are any policies put in place in order to curb the impact of hunger, how they work, their impact, and the improvements that can be made to minimize hunger in the nation.

One of the policies targeting hunger elimination in the United States was initialized by President Barrack during his presidential campaigns in 2008. The federal policy was is known as ‘Ending Childhood Hunger by 2015’ (United State Department of Agriculture, 2009). The policy entails strengthening the available food programs to eradicate child hunger. As a result, it will promote food securities and improve nutrition among the children. However, facts show that hunger still highest rates with approximately seventeen million children suffering from hunger (United State Department of Agriculture, 2009). Therefore, there is an urgent need to analyze strategies and programs of the policy to evaluate the challenges and provide recommendations that aim in achieving the goals.

Description of the Policy

The policy strengthens federal food programs for effective service delivery towards eradicating hunger in children. In this case, the policy aims at strengthening the Supplemental Nutritional Assistant Program (SNAP), School Meal Program, Child and Adult Care Food Programs, Summer Food Service Program, Emergency Food Program, and Commodity Assistance Program (United State Department of Agriculture, 2009). In particular, the federal government is concentrating on more direct strategies that will make sure all children receive adequate and nutritious foods by the end of 2015. For this reason, the policy concentrates on empowering those institutions or members of the community tasked with the care of children (United State Department of Agriculture, 2009). All these programs affect the children and the caregiver more directly and indirectly in the process of eradicating childhood hunger by 2015.

On the other hand, the policy has highlighted alternatives to ending childhood hunger in 2015. The policy identifies poverty as one of the major problems causing hunger in children (United State Department of Agriculture, 2009). Poverty has made many households to lack sufficient incomes or no income to purchase food or have better nutrition in meals. Therefore, as President Obama said, one of the best ways of ensuring that the policy is to provide more economic opportunities that will alleviate their income levels (United State Department of Agriculture, 2009). In this case, the policy states that providing families with food and nutritional programs is not enough to achieve the policy goals. Therefore, the federal government wants to increase the federal minimum wage, improve tax credits for families and apply strategies that eradicate unemployment (Riely, Mock, Cogill, Bailey, and Kenefick, 2009).

The minimum wage program relates to establishing a wage floor on the wages a worker should be given by the employer. Currently, the wage floor is at $7.25 an hour. According to the statistics revealed by the Census Bureau, the average poor family of 4 members earned $21,834. If the family had one person, who earned $15,080 working 40 hours in a week, then the family would only be earning 69% of the poverty level wage (Census Bureau, 2014). Since the wage is not adjusted to inflation, the actual wage is extremely lower than the poverty level.

Unfortunately, numerous employers do not adhere to the set wage floor. This in compliance mainly affects the employers, who major in employing illegal immigrants. They know that the employees cannot take any legal action against them since they (employees) are in the country illegally; hence, they would uncover themselves by filing the case to the court of law. One of the highly affected by poverty groups is the immigrant group; especially the people, who fail to have the legal documents.

The tax credits can be improved through the Earned Income Tax Credit Program. For this program to have an impact on a family or individual, people should file tax return. An income supplement is then given to the low-income earners. As an outcome, this mechanism was able to relieve off poverty by approximately 6.6 million people in 2009. Concurrently, 3.3 million children were also able to live a poverty-free life (CBPP, 2014). If the program had never been initiated, the number of children experiencing poverty today would be one-third higher. This is the most impactful program out of all the programs initiated in order to eliminate poverty in the United States. As indicated earlier, the program works by supplementing people’s minimum earnings. It also offers food stamps to the low-earning people.

Although it was not created after the formation of this policy, TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) also benefited from this policy. The program was initiated in 1996, as a replacement of the FDC (Families with Dependent Children) program, which was initiated in 1935. The program works by offering block grants to states. As an outcome, the states are expected by the federal government to assist the needy families (CBPP, 2014). However, the states have the right to choose the manner, in which to use the funds, as long as they help the needy. Consequently, the number of people needing the state’s assistance has decreased in the first five years of its initiation. This was mainly caused by the increase of working single parents. Additionally, other factors including families’ inability to reach the requirements were also contributors to this decrease (Coleman-Jensen et al., 2013). This is why the intervention of such a policy was relevant in order to make the needed rectifications; hence, improving the impact of poverty.

It is important to note that the policy is universal and not selective towards a certain group of people. Hunger as a social problem is a universal problem (Riely, Mock, Cogill, Bailey, and Kenefick, 2009). However, one may argue that the policy is selective to one group in the society. The argument may appear true, but more evaluations of the policy shows it is universal. First, the programs in this policy are meant to benefit the children but they also benefit the adults. As caregivers, the programs help the adult with financial and educational resources empowering them with food securities and knowledge about proper nutrition. On the other hand, the rich may argue that the policy is discriminative since most of the children who benefit from this policy come from poor families. The argument is wrong because eradicating childhood hunger does not necessarily mean lack of the ability to access food; it also means ensuring children access proper nutrition (Riely, Mock, Cogill, Bailey, and Kenefick, 2009). For this reason, the rich also benefit from the policy since their children might be suffering from malnutrition even if they have food security.

The children are the main beneficiaries of the policy, but it is valuable to mention that parents and institutions providing care to these children are also beneficiaries. In this case, all these parties benefit from the policy in two ways. The first way is the availability of food security. Based on an analysis of federal food/nutritional programs done by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the last few years has seen an increase in awareness of food securities and nutritional value (Dalrymple, 2008). Moreover, the food programs have empowered the parents who are living on low or no income with food security. In another report published by Delloitte Development LLC, they support the analysis by USAID stating that the federal food/nutrition programs not only do they increase food securities but also improve the health of the affect households through proper nutritional (Thottungal, Kern, Key and Sherman, 2014).

The benefits realized above have been a result of the effective delivery of strategies and structures. In order to understand the delivery of services in the policy, it is important to note the stakeholders first. The stakeholders in this policy are the federal and state governments, the private and public sector, and the affected people (children and caregivers) (Riely, Mock, Cogill, Bailey, and Kenefick, 2009). The federal government is the key player in enforcing the policy needs to the affected areas. Additionally, the federal government uses the state governments, the public and the private sectors in delivering the needs to satisfy the policy goals (Riely, Mock, Cogill, Bailey, and Kenefick, 2009). Finally, the affected people are on the receiving end of the policy needs. They are the only stakeholders in this policy who suffer from hunger, and they need help. The caregivers are part of the stakeholders because they are the ones who provide basic needs while the children are the main target group of the policy (Riely, Mock, Cogill, Bailey, and Kenefick, 2009).

The structure of the policy mainly depends on the various programs. According to the USDA, evaluating finding solutions of challenges in the existing structures for implementing is the best way to deliver in this policy. An excellent example to demonstrate delivery in this policy is SNAP. In this case, the federal government, with the help of faith-based organizations and others, fund the program (Thottungal, Kern, Key and Sherman, 2014). After the collection of funds, the government uses the governing institutions in the state level, hence reaching the affected groups. For this strategy to be effective, the federal government has come up with a way of assessing whether an applicant is qualified for the SNAP program. The affected families fill a form either on online or visit the local authorities where they register to be part of the SNAP program (Riely, Mock, Cogill, Bailey, and Kenefick, 2009). It was noted that USDA has created a forum where they involve all the stakeholders in policy implementation.

Critique

The policy has been under much criticism from those who believe it is not achievable. Based on research, those who believe in the policy have evaluated the different opportunities that have been realized by the policy. The first benefit realized by the policy is providing nutritious food during summer holidays through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and SNAP (Andrews, Bhatta, and Ploeg, 2013). A research conducted by Andrews, Bhatta and Ploeg shows that despite the financial crisis in 2007-08, SNAP programs were effective (Andrews, Bhatta, and Ploeg, 2013). These are the programs, which used the department stores. In this case, they have used data from local administrations to show the success of SNAP. Therefore, when the federal government implemented the SNAP program by providing specialized education about nutrition through the stores, they have promoted healthy meals for all children accessing the program (Andrews, Bhatta, and Ploeg, 2013).

Secondly, through the School Meal Program, the federal government introduced the SNSP to eliminate the gap of children not accessing food and proper nutrition over the summer holidays. In 2010, the congress contributed eighty-five million dollars to the SNSP to reach out those families with children, who do not have access nutritious meals when the school closes (Food and Nutrition Services, 2010). To do this, USDA implemented the program by providing three alternatives to testing the effectiveness. The first alternative was to provide families with low incomes, through SNAP, with higher purchasing power during summer holidays (Food and Nutrition Services, 2010). The second option was to provide the children with nutritious food packs for the weekends when the school closes (Food and Nutrition Services, 2010). Finally, the final option is to test the food delivery system to the rural areas to evaluate it success (Food and Nutrition Services, 2010).

Based on a research study done by Economic Research Service, the three options have been a success for the policy (Hanson and Oliveira, 2012). Since SNAP has already established structures, reaching out to the affected families is easy. Secondly, the good co-relationship between the federal government and the state government, school administrations, faith-based organizations among others has made the provision of nutritious food packs a success (Hanson and Oliveira, 2012). Finally, the delivery of meals to rural areas has also been a success. In this case, the Economic Research Services used the purchasing power for food by low-income earners as the mode of testing the success of these alternatives (Hanson and Oliveira, 2012). As a result, they established that the additional SNSP program, nutritious pack and food delivery to the rural areas improved eligibility of food security (Hanson and Oliveira, 2012). Therefore, the marginalized groups suffering from poverty like women and children have been reached by the policy.

On the other hand, the policy suffers setbacks that create a gap. First, the federal government overlooked the character behavior of children. Ishndorj, Crepinsek and Jesen have established that children have different eating habits (Ishdorj, Crepinsek and Jensen, 2013). The nutritious food provided by the federal government received in different ways by the children. First, there are children who take less of the meal, while others take more than the others. Secondly, there are children who eat specific foods while others through away the nutritious packs away once they are out of school (Ishdorj, Crepinsek and Jensen, 2013). Finally, it’s almost impossible to define the food these children eat when they are out of school.

Another limitation affecting the policy is the access of the marginalized groups. USDA acknowledges that despite the success of the policy, there are still a significant number of children who are not accessing proper food nutritious meals. Although the federal government reduced the paperwork and introduced digital online registration, a significant number of children are yet to access the programs (Heflin, Mueser and London, 2012). Moreover, those children who do not have admission to education or have not attained the minimum age to start going to school are difficult to access. Even though certain critics may argue that providing food programs to the low-income earners is not a viable economic strategy, economic scholars refute this claim by arguing that a healthy nation is a productive nation (Andrews and Smallwood, 2012). Therefore, whether it is economically viable or not, it is not a limitation.

More so, the policy has setbacks initiated by the requirements put in some of the programs. One of these programs is TANF. One of the TANF’s requirements is that single-parented families can only receive assistance if the parent is not working. As indicated earlier, a significant share of such families had working parents. As an outcome, they were disqualified from receiving assistance; yet, they were needy (Short, 2013). In order to receive assistance, the parents preferred not working; hence, contributing to the unemployment problem.

Still on the limitations caused by the program’s requirements, it has been noted that the former recipients of TANF’s assistance earn between $6 and $8.50 per hour (CBPP, 2014). This is 60% of these former recipients. The identified wages earned are on the poverty level scale. The other 40% of the former recipients do not have any form of employment; yet, the requirements restrict them from accessing this assistance (CBPP, 2014). One of the limiting requirements relates to the five year limit on benefits. Legal immigrants can only apply for the assistance five years after gaining the legal immigrant documents (Census Bureau, 2014). Furthermore, declining funding of the program from the federal also affects the assistance of the people.

The other criticism mainly emerges from the economic angle. Having established that hunger is mainly caused by poverty, which is mainly caused by unemployment, unemployment causes should be tackled. Some of the economic actions are working towards contributing to poverty, even though they are meant to improve the economy. The general poverty level in the world has placed pressure on the poorer countries. They, therefore, put some measures, such as having low-cost labor, in order to attract investors. As an outcome, companies in the richer countries outsource cheaper labor from these poor countries in order to minimize the cost of production; hence, increasing profits. Consequently, jobs are shifted from the United States to other developing countries, which leads to the lowering of the number of workplaces. Qualified people end up doing the available jobs, which may not always be well-paying, or lacking employment completely (Coleman-Jensen et al., 2013).

Critiques, therefore, state that this policy needs other supplementary policies that will not only offer wage supplements but will also create jobs or employment opportunities. Managing hunger should be an all-rounded policy issue that would prevent local companies from shifting job opportunities; thus, creating opportunities for employment, supplementing the people earning low wages, and creating awareness of nutritional value (Short, 2013). Additionally, the issue of illegal immigrants should also be handled, as it is a contributor to poverty and job competition. Unemployment is also caused by the competition evident between the immigrants and citizens in the face of limited opportunities (Census Bureau, 2014). It is relevant to note that the US is known as the land of opportunities by the global communities. Immigrants, whether legal or illegal, come to this land to tap in the country’s potential, which creates competition that leads to unemployment and poverty.

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Recommendation

In my opinion, I believe that the USDA should not concentrate too much on the mathematical or statistical variables of the issue at hand. Instead, they consider trying to apply psychological variables as solutions to the gap created by the limitations. In this case, they should actually consider analyzing the eating habits of children. It will result in providing meals that children will want to eat while maintaining a balanced diet. As the saying goes, ‘you can take a donkey to the river but you cannot force it to drink the water.’ Similarly, the children cannot be forced to eat what they do not want. In the end, the food would be wasted and the children will continue suffering from malnutrition. Finally, the federal government should work more with the county governments to reach out to non-schooling children. It will establish why these children do not go to school and why they cannot access nutritious meals. As a result, the policy will achieve its obligations by the end of 2015. As Spanish poet Fedrico Garcia Lorca perfectly summed up, “The day that hunger is eradicated from the earth will be the greatest spiritual explosion the world has ever known. Humanity cannot imagine the joy that will burst into the world”. It would be really hard to find someone that does not agree!

Hunger can also be eliminated by creating a program within the policy that creates awareness on observing nutritional value. Some children experience hunger because their parents are ignorant of the constituents of a nutritious meal. The fallacy that quantity equates to quality should be eliminated from people’s mentality. Furthermore, people should understand that one not only experiences hunger when they fail to have enough food; rich people can also experience hunger if they fail to eat nutritious food. Such programs should not only target the adults, but also the children. They should be made aware on whether their daily intake of food adds nutrition to their bodies. The children may use this information at home, as they are very eager to apply what they have learned in the real circumstances.

In order to facilitate this policy, strong guidelines enabling employment opportunity creation and sustenance should be formulated. As indicated, one of the reasons leading to unemployment is the shifting of jobs from the local market into the foreign market, where there is the low cost of labor. Such policies will eliminate the real cause of hunger, which is poverty. Additionally, the government should initiate a program that teaches families and individuals on financial management and resource allocation. Some families lack money for food because they lack knowledge of allocating the available finances appropriately and with priority. This program should be initiated at the school level. This way, children will grow up knowing how to prioritize their finances, especially cash at hand.