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Hungry? No, it’s a lack of “ood security’

From Times Wire Services

The U.S. government has vowed that Americans will never be hungry again. But they may experience “very low food security.”

The Agriculture Department waited until after election day to issue the annual report that measures Americans’ access to food, prompting criticism that the Bush administration was playing politics with hunger, though it is no longer using the word.

Mark Nord, a USDA sociologist and lead author of the report, said Wednesday that “hungry” was “not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey.”

The department said that 12% of Americans -- 35 million people -- could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times. Beginning this year, the Agriculture Department has determined “very low food security” to be a more scientifically palatable description for that group.

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Changing the wording “is a huge disservice to the millions of Americans who struggle daily to feed themselves and their families,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, an anti-hunger group.

“We should not hide the word ‘hunger’ in our discussions of this problem because we cannot hide the reality of hunger among our citizens,” Beckmann said.

The United States has set a goal of reducing the proportion of “food-insecure households” to 6% or less by 2010, or half the 1995 level.

Three years ago, the department asked the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies “to ensure that the measurement methods USDA uses to assess households’ access -- or lack of access -- to adequate food and the language used to describe those conditions are conceptually and operationally sound.”


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