Bush Official Says Hunger Statistics Are A Fraud

As we reported in this space not long ago, fully one-third of American children live in poverty. The Center for American Progress reports on a USDA study:

HUNGER ON THE RISE: Available government data all suggest a worsening of hunger in America. In a study based on the most recent statistics, the USDA conceded “the economic recession that began in 2001 pushed the prevalence of food insecurity slightly upward.” The study showed “11.1 percent (12.1 million households) were food insecure [in 2002], up from 10.7 percent in 2001.” Other data point to a more than “slight” increase in hunger. USDA statistics show a 40 percent rise in food stamp participants since October 2000, up to nearly 24 million Americans. Such statistics back up a 2002 report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which found increased demand for “emergency food” in all 25 cities surveyed.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Ohio has been hit pretty hard.

COLUMBUS — A struggling economy has created a new kind of poverty in Ohio in which the number of people seeking help at food pantries has increased each of the last three years, The Columbus Dispatch reported on Sunday.

The Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, which serves much of Ohio through 3,000 agencies, reported a 44 percent increase in people seeking assistance during the first three months of this year compared with the last three months of 2003. At the same time, the food available at pantries rose just 4 percent.

George Zeller, senior researcher at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland, said as Ohio’s large manufacturing base has shrunk, it has become more difficult for people to work their way out of poverty.

Vince Chase of Catholic Social Services of Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties, calls Ohio’s economic climate Depression-like, the worst he’s experienced in 30 years of helping people in need.

“We’re seeing people who never thought they would be in this situation,” Chase told the newspaper for a week-long series on poverty that began on Sunday. “Half of them are working people who have 10 to 15 to 20 years of work experience but don’t have jobs.”

Nationwide, the number of people seeking emergency food from Catholic Charities USA and its partners has jumped about 20 percent annually in recent years. A U.S. Conference of Mayors survey of 25 cities found the demand at food pantries rose 17 percent in 2003 and 19 percent in 2002.

But USDA Undersecretary Eric Bost calls his own Dept’s study a fraud.

“There’s a bump, but how much of that is due to people taking the easy way out? I don’t know,” he said.

Food-stamp enrollment is up largely due to government outreach to eligible people, he said. Pantries typically don’t require documentation of income, so not everyone receiving provisions is truly in need, Bost said.

Shown a study by his own agency demonstrating a rise in the hungry, he said the numbers were probably inflated, and indicated the questions were too vague: “If you ask any teenager if they’re happy about the food they have in their house, what will they say?” he asked.So Bost thinks the rich are hanging out at shelters claiming food meant for the poor? And that his Dept’s hunger studies are put together by people running around asking teenagers if they like the food their parents buy? I suppose that makes about as much sense as anything else this Administration believes.

The Bush Administration is riddled with deep thinkers like Bost, rabid followers of Ronald Reagan who attacked welfare by claiming off the top of his head that welfare recipients were using food stamps to buy vodka. Regan’s legacy was to show them the way to destroy social programs: deny the evidence and tell blatant lies based on imaginary anecdotes and wishful thinking.

Not much has changed in the last quarter-century.

(Thanks to Jamison of BiteSoundBite for the tip)


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