Hunger and inadequate nutrition are again on the rise here in the land of plenty, and warriors in anti-hunger campaigns worry it is rapidly getting worse. The faltering Minnesota economy, rising energy prices, out of control health care costs, an aging population living on fixed incomes, job losses and a broad-based dose of inflation are literally taking food right off our tables.
The daily barrage of news stories dealing with the weak Minnesota and national economies easily blurs the human dimension of shrinking personal purchasing power. Without accusing anyone of hard-heartedness or callousness, it might be helpful to pause and reflect on what hunger and under-nutrition means to all of us.
Simply put, hunger is bad for business. By at least one measure, it is a $1.1 billion annual drag on the Minnesota economy. That was factored well before the cost of food and food commodities took a big jump upwards earlier this year, before thousands of Minnesotans lost jobs and hundreds lost homes, and before the spiraling costs of food and medical cut even deeper into household disposable income.
Choosing between food and fuel, or meals and medications, slows the economy at the same time that policy makers in St. Paul and Washington are looking for ways to stimulate economic activity. Window shopping doesn’t cut it; restoring personal purchasing power would help.
From this perspective, Minnesota 2020 has chosen to take an “enlightened self-interest” look at hunger and inadequate nutrition. Faith-based groups with feeding programs and nonprofit organizations have long argued the morality of meeting human basic needs. Minnesotans have been responsive in fighting hunger over the years.
This paper, then, is intended to support existing organizational efforts by helping raise awareness that hunger affects us all. To do so, it will explore needs, causes and responses to hunger with the latter being a call to action.