The 2012 Hunger Report is Here!
Rebalancing Act: Updating U.S. Food and Farm Policies, the 2012 edition of Bread for the World Institute's annual Hunger Report, was released today, November 21. This is the Institute's 22nd annual report. Few of them have been as timely, considering the looming budget cuts Congress is negotiating.
The report argues that U.S. farm policies need to shift toward production of healthy foods. We say bluntly that current farm policies are doing a poor job of contributing to a healthy food system. There is too much support for ingredients used to produce cheap junk foods, and not enough support for foods that promote good health.
The greater share of government support to the farm sector goes to the biggest producers. Smaller producers and producers of healthy foods — i.e., fruits and vegetables — get little or no support. It's been this way for decades, but Americans are expressing more concern than ever about what we're eating and what we're getting for our tax dollars to the farm sector. The local food movement, with its emphasis on "smaller is better," is helping to reshape the farm policy debate. Farm policies are not solely to blame for Americans' low consumption of fruits and vegetables — but U.S. farms don't even produce enough healthy foods for our population to get its recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals. We need to ask, what are farm policies really trying to accomplish?
The report is not a diatribe against large-scale farming. We recognize the value of production agriculture in lowering food costs. The biggest beneficiaries of low food prices are low-income people – the people most vulnerable to hunger, who are therefore Bread for the World's main concern. Food production could also be a key component of the country's economic recovery strategy, a potential source of jobs. In tough times with so many people out of work, the hobbling U.S. economy simply can't afford to ignore these possibilities.
The greatest economic challenge facing the United States, bar none, is the rising cost of health care. Obesity as a contributor to these costs is getting more attention as the problem affects more and more Americans. Hunger, on the other hand, is often overlooked as a health issue—but hungry people are by definition in poor health. Together, the costs of obesity and hunger run into the hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This calls for a much stronger tie between the foods government encourages farmers to produce and the foods government should be encouraging people to eat.
We need bolder, more determined thinking about how policies can better meet the needs that the world is now facing. The 2012 Hunger Report has plenty of ideas to move us in the right direction.
+View or order the 2012 Hunger Report at www.bread.org/hungerreport.
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