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Idea of the Day: How President Obama Should Address Our Worsening Hunger Problem

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Domestic hunger, poverty, food insecurity—and, as a result, the use of supplemental nutrition assistance—all soared under the presidency of George W. Bush. In October 2008 then-candidate Barack Obama pledged to end childhood hunger in the United States by 2015 as a down payment on ending all domestic hunger. At the time he made that pledge, however, he was unaware of the full extent of the economic downturn that he would inherit upon taking office, as well as the extent to which conservatives in Congress would—despite their embrace of corporate welfare—consistently and harshly oppose government efforts to fight hunger.

During the first three years of the Obama administration, the number of children in food-insecure households remained at the very high level of nearly 17 million. Although the Obama administration’s actions to boost benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and improve access to other nutrition programs greatly mitigated the extent to which families struggled against hunger, we are no closer to meeting his goal to end childhood hunger by 2015 than we were four years ago—and we are far further away than we were in 2001, when 4 million fewer children lived in food-insecure homes.

Moreover, food insecurity and hunger are on the flip side of the same malnutrition coin as obesity because healthier food is more expensive and less available in low-income neighborhoods than unhealthy foods. These joint problems harm the U.S. economy, hinder educational advancement, and increase health care spending.

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This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

For more from the same column, click here