Hunger in South Carolina and the U.S.

On Monday, the US Department of Agriculture released a report Household Food Security in the United States, which uses polite language to describe hunger as an American condition.

According to the report, people experience food insecurity when “food intake … was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food”

Essentially, this means you are going hungry.  More people went hungry in 2008 than ten years before.  This is true nationally.   South Carolinians not only fell below the national average, they also experienced more deterioration in food security than the nation as a whole. Looking at the states on this list, its easy to see the South is overrepresented and maybe easy to understand given its history of income inequality, rural poverty, recent textile-deindustrialization and racial discrimination. In light of that, it’s surprising to see states like Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona and Oklahoma here in the top sixteen.

We’ll have to wait for a breakdown of the hunger data county-by-county to see if the hunger is concentrated in urban or rural areas, or spread more or less evenly around the states.

State.All figures in % Food insecurity ave 2006-08 Food insecurity ave 2003-05 Food insecurity ave 1996-98 Change 1996-98 to 2006-08 Change 2003-05 to 2006-08
Mississippi 17.4 16.5 14.6 3.2 0.9
Texas 16.3 16 15.2 0.2 0.3
Arkansas 15.9 14.7 13.7 0.8 1.2
Georgia 14.2 12.4 10.9 2 1.8
New Mexico 14.1 16.8 16.5 -0.2 -2.7
Missouri 14 11.7 10.1 2.8 2.3
Oklahoma 14 14.6 13.1 1.7 -0.6
Kansas 13.8 12.3 11.5 0.6 1.5
Maine 13.7 12.3 9.8 2.4 1.4
N Carolina 13.7 13.2 9.8 1.7 0.5
Tennessee 13.5 13 11.8 0.2 0.5
Alabama 13.3 12.3 12.5 2.1 1
Ohio 13.3 12.6 9.7 1.7 0.7
Arizona 13.2 12.2 14.6 0.6 1
S Carolina 13.1 15.5 11 1.7 -2.4

Full downloadable spreadsheet courtesy the UK Guardian.

Local SC media and government figures haven’t noticed the report yet, so far as I can tell. The State ran their wire service article, which made no specific reference to South Carolina. None of the other papers appeared to notice. When and if they do, expect them to emphasis the relative improvement between 2003-2005 and 2006-2008. Establishment South Carolina is well insulated, and so won’t be any more or less concerned than they were one or ten years ago. I would not expect any political discussion in this state on the relative worsening of hunger between 1996 and the present.

Ten years ago, 11% of  South Carolinians occasionally went hungry, according to the report.  Last year, an average of 13.1% of South Carolinians experienced food insecurity – to one degree or another – in the period of 2006 to 2008.  That is actually an improvement over 2003 to 2005, when the average was 15.5%, third worst in the nation.

Going from third worst to sixteenth in hunger just prior to a depression is better than staying at second. But hunger is closely related to poverty and are structural issues that South Carolina’s political establishment habitually ignores. State government could not be less concerned with income disparity, racial inequality and general poverty among the population.

Food insecurity was actually at its highest in 2003-2005, when government and media were completely unconcerned with structural poverty.  The relative drop in food insecurity experienced in 2006-2008 is after all still much higher than the level ten years previously.   In light of the subsequent economic meltdown, hunger must be on the rise again.

Full USDA Report: Household Food Security in the United States, 2008 (66 page PDF file)


February 2009 Food Research and Action Center flyer on South Carolina Demographics, Poverty and Food Insecurity.


Posted on November 17, 2009, in economics, South Carolinians, Statistics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: