The New Face of Hunger – Why are people malnourished in the richest country on Earth?
By Sunhye Park

By Tracie McMillan, for National Geographic

This article is part of National Geographic’s special The Future of Food Series.


One out of six Americans doesn’t have enough to eat. If hunger in America still conjures up a “depression-era image of the unemployed scavenging for food,” check out this eye-opening article from National Geographic in which three photographers have captured three very intimate faces of hunger in rural, suburban, and urban America.

“This is not your grandmother’s hunger. Today, more working people are hungry because wages have declined,” says Janet Poppendieck, a sociologist at the City University of New York. Today, 48 million Americans are considered “food insecure” and experience hunger in their households. Half of them are white, and two-thirds of those with children have at least one working adult in a full time job. In the suburbs, once the home of the American dream, the number of hungry people has doubled since 2007. The suburban poor do not face actual starvation – some even drive cars, and dress decently with thrift shop items. But their next meal often can’t be counted on.

Many working poor are also stranded in a “food desert,” a low-income region with few or no grocery stores to get fresh food. They are left with the usual pantry staples that are high in salt, sugar, and fat. The abundance of processed foods made with subsidized crops leads to a daily diet of low nutritional value, further driving the paradox of hunger side by side with obesity. Tracie McMillan explains, “for many of the hungry in America, the extra pounds that result from a poor diet are collateral damage – an unintended side effect of hunger itself.”

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