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USA: Home of the hungry


The New York Coalition Against Hunger, an association of churches and charities, says the number of people who use their food pantries and soup kitchens has increased by 20 per cent in 2007 with many distribution points struggling to meet demand following cuts in federal funding.

In the largest city in the world's richest country 1.3 million people, one in six of the population, cannot afford enough food and rely on emergency aid. The Coalition says this year's increase in demand is the first concrete sign of economic slowdown but that the number using its services rose by 11 per cent in 2006 when the economy was supposed to be still strong.

One in three of the city's children live at or below the poverty level according to US census figures. Studies carried out by Harvard University estimate that this degree of food insecurity costs New York $2.65 billion per year in lost revenue and increased health costs.

The US Department of Agriculture says 12.6 million households throughout the country, 10 per cent of the population, could not afford an adequate supply of food in 2006 – 35.5 million Americans including 12.6 million children.

Hunger levels in the US are far higher than in its neighbour Canada, which is at a comparable level of economic development. Researchers found that in the period 2003–2005 among households with children the rate of adult food insecurity was nearly twice that in Canada, and that the rate of "severe food insecurity" was 80 per cent higher.