Monday, August 4, 2014

The New Face of Hunger

Iowa is well-known as a state where a lot of stuff is grown. The dark soil, often described as “black gold”, is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium - nutrients that corn, soybeans, and a variety of other plants need in order to grow.  Last year (2013), Iowa saw 2.2 billion (yes – with a ‘b’) bushels of corn grown and harvested (the majority going to feed livestock). The numbers are equally impressive for soybeans and other vegetables.

In a place where so much food is grown, it’s hard to believe that still 1 in 5 Iowans faces food insecurity. Fields upon fields of lush green crop spread over tens of millions of acres across Iowa and, yet, 20% of the people living in the state struggle to feed themselves and their families on an ongoing basis.

That isn't right!

National Geographic Magazine (yes, THAT National Geographic) has a new 8-month series focused on the future of food. They recognize that feeding a planet of 9 billion people by the year 2050 will be a major stressor on our planet’s natural resources and want to draw attention to the importance of and struggles of our food system.  Going to their website on hunger in America, a visitor is met with a very basic question:  Why are people malnourished in the richest country on Earth? Now that’s a big (and good!) question! Why should anyone have to experience malnourishment?

As a part of their series, NatGeo spent time investigating hunger and food culture in three specific communities across the United States, including Osage, IA. Yes, Iowa. Land of the farmer. Fields of plentiful corn, soybeans, and other vegetables. Home to “the new face of hunger”.

The magazine’s August issue captures the story of the Dreier family who is supported in part with the money that spouse and father Jim Dreier makes applying pesticides to fields and driving trucks. But it's not enough. The family said their SNAP benefits were cut 16 percent, to $172 a month, after Congress cut the program last year. The Des Moines Register wrote an article about the magazine’s focus in Iowa and further described the food insecurity rate for children in the 16-county region as well as why NatGeo picked a community in Iowa to spotlight. Briefly: farm subsidies.

A nationwide look at the percentage of people around the country who
rely on SNAP assistance. Darker colors represent higher percentages.

Be sure to check out the amazing, yet saddening infographics, videos, pictures, research, and other details on the National Geographic website or pick up a copy of their August magazine to read more about Osage, Iowa and the other communities NatGeo visited.

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