Food (In)Security – Hunger and Nutrition

Addressing Food Insecurity in the United States/Protecting the Programs that Protect the Hungry

Professor Craig Gundersen of UIUC and Sophie Milam, Senior Policy Council at Feeding America, will explore problems of access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food close to home. Food insecurity is one of the leading public health issues facing the United States today.  It has become an important issue due to the magnitude of the problem – approximately 50 million Americans are food insecure – and the numerous negative health and other consequences associated with food insecurity.

Craig Gundersen
“Addressing Food Insecurity in the United States”
Working with Feeding America and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Craig Gundersen studied rates of food insecurity throughout Cook County, work showing that nearly 21% of residents within the city of Chicago are food insecure, unsure where they will get their next meal. Such revelations within the U.S. underscore the implausibility of achieving the first Millennium Development Goal to cut global hunger and poverty in half by 2015. Gundersen began with a description of food insecurity in the United States along with information for the Chicago area and for Illinois. Gundersen then covered the determinants of food insecurity and, given these determinants, how public policies can be used to alleviate food insecurity. He primarily concentrated on food assistance programs and the evidence regarding their effectiveness. To conclude, Gundersen reviewed future research possibilities in this area and provided some thoughts on the future of food assistance programs in the United States.

120430-gundersenCraig Gundersen is a Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois and Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory. He is also a member of the Technical Advisory Group of Feeding America and is the lead researcher on the Map the Meal Gap project.  Previously, he was at the Economic Research Service of the USDA and at Iowa State University.  Gundersen’s research is primarily focused on the causes and consequences of food insecurity and on evaluations of food assistance programs. Among other journals, he has published in Journal of Human Resources, Journal of Health Economics, Journal of Econometrics, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Journal of Nutrition, Pediatrics, Demography, Obesity Reviews, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, and American Journal of Public Health.  His work has been supported by over $15 million in external funding from various government and non-government sources.

Sophie Milam
“Balancing the Budget in a Time of Need: Protecting the Programs that Protect the Hungry”
One in eight Americans receives food assistance each year through the Feeding America network of over 200 food banks. This network distributes food to over 61,000 local pantries, kitchens and shelters. Together they serve 37 million Americans, a 46% increase in the number of clients between 2006 and 2010. The recession has significantly worsened food insecurity in the United States, and more and more individuals are relying on food banks and federal assistance programs to put food on the table. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly food stamps, is our nation’s cornerstone anti-hunger program, but food banks fill in the gaps for families who do not qualify for SNAP or whose benefits are inadequate to meet their food needs. Both SNAP and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) are funded through the Farm Bill, omnibus legislation that also includes farm and conservation programs and that is up for reauthorization this year. Public health advocates are also looking to this Farm Bill to reshape farm and nutrition programs to better promote nutrition and combat obesity. This complex bill must be rewritten at a time when the need for food assistance has never been higher and program participation and spending have ballooned, but when the pressure for deficit reduction will demand billions in cuts from Farm Bill programs. The decisions made in this legislation will determine whether we make progress or lose ground in our nation’s fight against hunger.

120430-milamSophie Milam is Senior Policy Counsel at Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief charity. As part of the public policy team, Sophie develops and advocates for policies and programs to reduce hunger. Specifically she works to secure resources supporting the work of food banks and emergency food providers and to strengthen federal nutrition programs. Her primary focus is on SNAP (formerly food stamps) and child nutrition programs.

This event was co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Global Health Initiative and University Communications.

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