National Press Release National Press Release

Contact: Ashley Sullivan or Sandra Venner
Center on Hunger and Poverty, Tufts University




Hunger in a Strong Economy

"New Study Reveals Booming Economy Not Feeding More Families"


The most comprehensive analysis of domestic hunger since new welfare policy became law in 1996 indicates that the nation has entered a new era in which a strong economy no longer has its historical capacity to feed American families.

Researchers at the national Center on Hunger and Poverty at Tufts University in Boston report that recent years of exceptional economic growth have failed to produce a commensurate reduction in food insecurity and hunger. "For the first time in modern history," reports Center director Dr. J. Larry Brown, "the prevalence of hunger seems stubbornly impervious to economic growth. At the peak of the longest economic boom in our history, over 30 million people live in households that experience hunger and food insecurity — about the same number as four years ago."

PARADOX OF OUR TIMES: Hunger in a Strong Economy, was written by a team of analysts who evaluated annual federal hunger and food insecurity data, numerous state and local research studies, recent reports by emergency food programs across the nation, and economic trends. Authorities in the field usually define hunger as the painful sensation resulting from involuntary lack of food. Food insecure households include those who haven’t enough to eat, or don’t know where their next meal will come from.

"The strong economy is not reducing hunger," Brown explained, "because even though more households are in the workforce, their take-home pay is not enough to feed their families." At the same time, he added, "one consequence of welfare reform is that the federal government is doing less to end hunger, thereby pushing more responsibility onto community-based non-profit agencies."

Speaking at a press conference in Boston, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D/Ma) said today that "this study will be treated very seriously by elected officials because its implications are far-reaching. We appear to be at a unique moment in our history." Kennedy added that "we cannot leave an issue like hunger to the vagaries of the economy; we need effective national policy responses."

Along with Senator Arlen Specter (R/Pa), Kennedy has assembled a bipartisan group in Congress to support legislation that better targets the food stamp program to reward the work efforts of low-income families, and strengthens other aspects of federal programs. The Center study calls for more focused food stamp policies to reward the efforts of the working poor. It also recommends policies that promote economic security among impoverished working families, by building household assets through savings and home ownership, similar to the way federal policies have benefited the middle class over past decades.

Also speaking at the Boston-based press conference were: Lynn Phares, President of the ConAgra Feeding Children Better Foundation which supports community-based efforts to address hunger; James Weill, President of the Food Research and Action Center in Washington, which is a leading supporter of the Kennedy-Specter bill; Deborah Leff, CEO of America’s Second Harvest; and Dr. Irwin Rosenberg, Dean of the Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Organizations in nearly 30 states will hold simultaneous press events about this new study, to highlight their concern about the paradox of unprecedented numbers of food insecure and hungry families amidst a strong economy.

The Tufts study has been shared with the White House and all Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. At a time in which several presidential candidates are addressing hunger and poverty in their campaigns, this non-partisan analysis offers the somber message that poverty and hunger will not be reduced without direct and purposeful federal policy remedies.