World Food Day and Hunger in Michigan

October 16 is World Food Day. It’s a worldwide event founded in 1945 by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization to increase food and hunger awareness. World Food Day is also intended to promote food security by asking communities to develop long-term actions.

In Michigan, there’s lots of food insecurity and too few long-term solutions. The New York Times reported in March that 1 in 8 Michigan residents receive Food Stamps. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reports that from 2004-2006, Michigan ranked 12th in the nation (tied with Kentucky) in the number of households experiencing very low food security, i.e. families and individual who cut back on or skip meals altogether. (By the way, that ranking is behind MS, SC, NM, AR, OK, TX, ME, UT, AK, LA, and GA).

Each year since 2001, the numbers also have increased for people participating in free or discounted school lunch programs, and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Just like the irony of water shutoffs in a state surrounded by the Great Lakes, it also makes no sense that there is so much hunger when Michigan’s second largest industry is the agri-food sector. See the Michigan Food Policy Council 2006 Report of Recommendations for an indication of the State’s non-specific plans to reduce hunger.

For her part this week, Governor Granholm and her family have joined the 1.3 million Michiganders who have a maximum $5.87 per day Food Assistance Program (food stamp) budget. She, along with other corporate leaders and politicians, agreed to Take the Michigan Food Stamp Challenge–a week-long social experiment for anyone who has ‘ever wondered what it would be like to survive on Michigan’s Food Assistance benefits.’ While they may not truly experience food insecurity first hand, perhaps it’ll give them impetus to fund and provide greater resources to individuals and families who will remain hungry next week, and the week after, and the rest of this year.

And by the way, on October 1, 2008, the federal Food Stamp program was renamed as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)–we wonder how much that change cost in Food Stamps!

(Image courtesy of Flickr)

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