The hunger issue

Hunger. What does it mean to be “hungry?” New Mexico’s HSD Secretary Sidonie Squier recently made some comments indicating that hunger is not a serious problem in New Mexico. Not surprisingly, liberal Albuquerque Journal columnist, Leslie Linthicum took Squier to task in this morning’s paper for her comments.

But, before we unpack the issue of “hunger,” it is important to define our terms. I was hungry before lunch today, but that’s clearly not what we are talking about. Linthicum relies on some national interest group measures of “food insecurity” and a group called New Mexico Appleseed that lobbies for increased government spending on anti-hunger programs. Of course, they are going to promote the concept that hunger is indeed a serious problem lest their funding dry up.

But let’s get beyond the fuzzy concept of hunger and look at some hard data:

According to the chart below, only 1.5% of poor families often had inadequate food to eat over the past four months. That’s a far cry from the 20% of New Mexicans deemed “food insecure.”

And, despite attempts to portray a massive gulf between rich and poor, when it comes to actual nutrition, on average the groups are quite comparable:

And, of course, we all know that obesity, not malnutrition, is the main nutrition-related problem among the poor:

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Lastly, while hunger is tough to measure and temporary, stunted growth due to malnutrition is easy to measure and exceedingly rare in the US.

So, did Squier step in it? Anytime you make a blanket statement and say that hunger is not a problem in a state of 2 million people, you are bound to open yourself to criticism. But, with large numbers of anti-hunger programs now in place and little evidence of Americans who go without food for a significant amount of time to the point of impacting their long-term health, it would seem that Squier is closer to the truth than her liberal critics would like to believe.