Freedom from Hunger: An Achievable Goal for the United States of America
Recommendations of the National Commission on Hunger to Congress and the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture
To identify solutions to hunger, Congress created the bipartisan National Commission on Hunger to provide policy recommendations to Congress and the USDA Secretary to more effectively use existing programs and funds of the Department of Agriculture to combat domestic hunger and food insecurity.
This report is based on the commission members' full agreement that hunger cannot be solved by food alone, nor by government efforts alone. The solutions to hunger require a stronger economy, robust community engagement, corporate partnerships, and greater personal responsibility, as well as strong government programs.
The Commission held regular meetings; traveled to eight cities across America to hold public hearings and visit government, nonprofit, community, and faith-based programs working to alleviate hunger; and heard testimony from 80 invited experts from government, industry, universities, and nonprofits and from 102 members of the public.
What Is Hunger?
We chose a precise and readily available measure of hunger called very low food security. For purposes of this report, hunger means the lack of access to food when families do not have enough money, causing them to cut the size, quality, or frequency of their meals throughout the year. We wish to be very clear that hunger in America is not the same as famine and the resulting malnutrition seen in developing countries.
Why Is Hunger Significant?
In 2014, 5.6% of households in America experienced hunger in the past year, for an average of about 7 months. The percent of households facing hunger rose from 4.1% in 2007 to 5.4% in 2010, and has remained around 5.6% since, even as the economic recovery enters its sixth year.
Many factors lead to hunger in America; focusing only on household income or the availability of government assistance misses major contributing factors such as low or underemployment, unstable families, insufficient education, exposure to violence, a history of racial or ethnic discrimination, personal choices, or a combination of these. These factors can play a large role in hunger and cannot be addressed solely through public nutrition assistance programs or charitable giving.
Populations of Specific Concern
We focused on seven groups that experience high rates of hunger: seniors, single parent families with young children, people with disabilities, veterans and active duty military, American Indians, people affected by high incarceration rates, and immigrants.
The U.S. government, along with a host of nonprofit organizations, corporations, and individuals, works daily to reach millions of families, and they do so in comprehensive, effective, and creative ways. In 2014, the U.S. government spent an estimated $103.6 billion on federal food and nutrition assistance programs. Supplementing these are many community programs and private initiatives.
We offer 20 specific recommendations in six areas to reduce hunger:
- Improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (10 recommendations)
- Improvements to child nutrition programs (4 recommendations)
- Improvements to nutrition assistance options for people who are disabled or medically at risk
- Pilot programs to test the effectiveness of strategic interventions to reduce and eliminate hunger
- Incentives to expand roles for corporate, nonprofit, and public partnerships in addressing hunger in
civil society (1 recommendation)
- Creation of a White House Leadership Council to End Hunger (2 recommendations)