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Food ‘insecurity’

The report was issued just a week before Thanksgiving, designed to shock.

The number of “food-insecure households” in the United States “rose from 13.0 million (11.1 percent of all households) in 2007 to 17.1 million (14.6 percent) in 2008)” … meaning “food insecurity was at a record-high level in 2008,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture claimed.

Why, that means households containing 49.1 million people suffered “food insecurity” in 2008, up from 36.2 million people in 2007!

The New York Times headlined its account of the report “49 Million Americans report a lack of food.”

Does famine stalk the land? Not really. “The data … don’t support this dire portrayal,” reports Charles Lane, a member of The Washington Post’s editorial board.

The USDA survey asked respondents in 44,000 households whether, and how, a lack of funds affected their eating habits. The first question asked was whether the respondent had ever “worried” about running out of food in the previous 12 months — “not actually run out of food, just worried about it,” Mr. Lane points out. A “yes” answer was counted as an instance of “food insecurity.”

The least severe forms of “insecurity” were the most commonly reported. “Worry,” with 19.7 percent of households, topped the list, followed by running out of food before money came in to buy more (15.3 percent). In neither instance, however, did respondents end up eating any less than usual.

In fact, only 0.1 percent of children went without food for a whole day in 2008, the USDA found. While that’s not a good thing, it’s hard to imagine what the cumbersome federal bureaucracy could do to locate and help those few waifs, other than expand the food stamp and school lunch and breakfast programs — all of which have already been done.

And that number was down from 0.2 percent in 2007.

In actuality, 2008 was the best year in eight decades for food affordability, according to the USDA. It now takes only 5.6 percent of income to feed an average family of four — a tribute to this land of plenty.

“Food is so readily available that, on the very day that the USDA issued its report, health policy expert Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University in Atlanta reported that, if present trends continue, 43 percent of Americans will be obese by 2018,” Mr. Lane reports.

This report is a clear attempt to drum up — and mischaracterize — another “need” the bureaucrats can fill to justify their existence.

Millions of Americans presumably also worry they won’t be driving a nice enough car next month. To solve this “ride insecurity” crisis, perhaps the U.S. government could take over a major auto manufacturer, and then spend billions handing subsidies to already-wealthy people who want to buy brand new SUVs. They could call it “Cash for Clunkers” …

Oh, wait. Never mind.

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