Over 42 million Americans face hunger each and every day including 1 in 6 children. If we think about hunger as most of us experience it, as a temporary sensation, the solution to this problem is straightforward: we just need to get more food to people who don’t have enough.
Food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens may seem like the answer to hunger in America. They are, however, a short-term and inadequate response. There has been a stunning increase in the number of emergency food programs over the last 40 years. In 1980, there were about 2 dozen food banks in the United States.
Today, there are more than 350, which serve 63,000 affiliated pantries and shelters. The growth of the emergency food system, however, has failed to solve “hunger.” Despite a spike during the Great Recession and a recent trend downward as the economy has recovered, the prevalence of food insecurity has remained relatively constant over the past 25 years. 11.1% of households were food insecure in 2018, which is only slightly below the 11.9% rate that was recorded in 1995, the year the federal government started keeping statistics.
If we want to solve hunger once and for all, we need to reduce the need for emergency assistance that food banks provide.