By Jiayi Wang
DES MOINES, Iowa – The United States is the wealthiest country in the world, but six percent of households suffer from food insecurity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The main cause (for hunger in the country) is food insecurity,” David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a nongovernmental organization, said Thursday during a panel discussion at the World Food Prize meeting. Beckmann is the 2010 World Food Prize Laureate.
Hunger problems in the United States differ from those in developing countries, he said.
Beckmann described the typical hunger scenario in the United States: families run out of money before the end of the month. The mother stops eating and gives food to her children. Three days later, there is no food for the children. Income shortage and low education level also lead these families to suffer malnutrition.
At the same time, food waste and food loss is serious in the United States. Panelist Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA’s extramural science agency, said the nation wastes 131 billion tons of food each year, which translates to 1,200 calories per person daily.
The panel, held at the Marriott Downtown Hotel, focused on ending hunger, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture in America. Panelists expressed disappointment about U.S. government action on the domestic hunger problem.
“Ironically, many countries in the world have been making rapid progress in dealing with poverty and disease, (but) the U.S. has not made much progress since the mid-1970s,” Beckmann said. “And I think (this) is basically because we haven’t had a president and Congress who consider poverty in America as their top five priorities for four years.”
According to Bread for the World, effective leadership and policies can help end hunger in the United States within 10 to 15 years.
The last presidents serious about the domestic poverty were Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the 1960s and 1970s, Beckmann said.
“We’ve got to make hunger, poverty and opportunity a national priority, and one way to do that is to ask the hunger question in the election of 2016,” he said.