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On Thursday, Feb. 10, Bread for the World Institute released its 10th annual report on the state of world hunger. It says the United States is the only industrialized country that still puts up with widespread hunger inside its borders. That’s hogwash! This report flies in the face of available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, the Census Bureau and common sense. Where are all these hungry people?
Bread asserts that, here in the United States, there are some 31 million people “at risk.” Their data shows that “people in 3.6 percent of all American households were hungry and 10.2 percent of households were at risk of hunger.” The report goes on to say, “The United States could cut the number of its hungry to some 16 million for $5 billion a year.” Bread is trying to shame us by saying that we could cut the number of our hungry in half for only $18 a year for each person. However, Bread hasn’t come up with 31 million hungry people, or even 16 million hungry people. The operative words in this report are “at risk.” That means, under certain circumstances, some of these people might possibly be hungry at some time.
If you go down to skid row you will come across some people who are so drunk or stoned they don’t eat, but to imply that there are families with children going hungry for any length of time here in the United States just is not reality. The 31 million people in this report presumably are the number of people classified as poor, according to our government’s inflated poverty threshold, which in 1999 was an income of $16,700 for a family of four. However, when looking at poverty, the government doesn’t count all the cash and non-cash assistance which is provided, such as free food, free medical care and, in many cases, free housing or money for housing assistance.
Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation has compiled certain facts about those classified as poor taken from various government reports.
41 percent of all “poor” households owned their own homes.
- The average “poor” American has one-third more living space than the average Japanese does, and four times as much living space as the average Russian.
- Two-thirds of “poor” households have air conditioning.
- 70 percent of “poor” households own a car, 27 percent own two or more cars.
- 97 percent have a color television. Nearly half own two or more televisions.
- Nearly three-quarters have a VCR; more than one in five has two VCRs.
- 64 percent own microwave ovens, half have a stereo system, and over a quarter have an automatic dishwasher.
Eighty-four percent of the “poor” report that their families have “enough” food to eat; 13 percent state they “sometimes’ do not have enough to eat, and three percent say they “often” do not have enough to eat, but what does this really mean? Does it mean that they eat steak at the beginning of the month and must eat less desirable cuts of meat or cut back at the end of the month? Apart from those alcohol and drug addicts mentioned earlier, there is no evidence of malnutrition among our poor population. Just the reverse is true.
The government actually takes blood samples of those classified as poor and compares these with other population groups. The results found the average consumption of protein, vitamins and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children.
In fact, poor children actually consume more meat than do higher-income children and have average protein intakes that are 100 percent above recommended levels. Rector found most poor children today are in fact “super-nourished,” growing up to be, on average, one inch taller and ten pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.
Today, the biggest nutrition-related health problem among the poor in our country is obesity. Nearly half of poor adult women are overweight and some studies have shown obesity to be more of a problem among poor children than middle class children.
To be sure, there are those who occasionally go hungry in this country, but the problem is temporary, more often related to lifestyle or adjustments that have to be made when circumstances change. Rector, using Department of Agriculture figures, estimates that the percentage of children in this country who miss even one meal a month is approximately one half of one percent.
To suggest that the problem with hunger is widespread or pervasive as Bread for the World Institute has done is patently dishonest. The question is why would Bread do it? Bread for the World Institute is a charity, but feeds no one. According to the organization’s literature, it “seeks to inform, educate, nurture and motivate concerned citizens for action on policies that affect hungry people.” It works closely with Bread for the Word, a Christian citizens’ movement of 44,000 members who advocate specific policy changes to help overcome hunger in the United States and overseas.
What are those policy changes it advocates here in this country? It advocates for raising the minimum (training) wage and for what Bread terms a “living wage,” which is another term for a guaranteed income, if necessary with a job provided by the government. Bread decries the fact that a person working full-time at minimum wage earns only $10,700 per year, which it says is “$5,960 below the 1998 poverty level for a family of four.” This is true, but this argument that minimum wage workers are poor adults working full-time and trying to raise a family is largely untrue.
Seventy-two percent of minimum wage earners are single, and sixty-one percent never have been married. Also, Bread neglects to tell us that $10,700 in 1998 was $2,650 above the poverty threshold for a single adult. Furthermore, most single adults who are earning the minimum wage are teenagers or young adults living in households well above the poverty level. Sixty-three percent of minimum wage earners receive a raise within 12 months, and 49 percent receive a raise within four months.
Also, Bread for the World lobbies for universal health care, making more people eligible for food stamps (presently the cutoff is around $20,000), expanding Head Start and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which is one of the most abused programs ever created by the government.
Bread for the World decries the welfare reform bill signed into law in 1996, which has cut the black child poverty rate to the lowest in our history. Bread conveniently fails to mention that our government already is spending $430 billion a year on our various welfare programs or about $4,000 for each family in the U.S. In short, what Bread for the World is arguing for is socialism, an expansion of the welfare state without accountability. This is all well and good if that is what the people who run this organization believe is best for society, but Bread should do it honestly.
It is surprising that so many churches and respected Christian charities are listed as sponsors and co-sponsors of this organization because what Bread is advocating runs contrary to Biblical principles. Paul teaches in 2 Thessalonians 3 10: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” Further, he said, “Keep away from every brother who is idle.” It is clear from Paul’s teaching that we are to help those in need, but when we do, we are to hold them accountable.
Today, hunger still is a problem in the Third World. Perhaps that’s why so many child sponsorship organizations have signed on. However, many of them also are taking large amounts of government money, as are many of the other charities listed at the end of this report. Father Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich., has pointed out the problem thusly: “Subsidies relieve the organization of fund-raising burdens but they can compromise the ideals of serving the truly needy as well. The goal of the religious charity goes beyond the mere maintenance of an individual’s material needs, yet religious missions are often sacrificed to appease secular officials.”
Has the church lost its way? These days it seems everyone is caught in a time crunch. It is much easier to hand out sandwiches to those in need or send money to organizations like Bread for the World than it is to do what the Bible commands us to do in our neighborhoods. The poor in this country have many problems like failing schools and drive-by shootings, but hunger is not one of them. These problems cannot be solved by adding another $5 billion to our bloated welfare budget. Like Christians of old, we should shun those who promote an all-inclusive welfare state as well as the charities that lend their names to this nonsense.