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  • The U.S. is one of the wealthiest nations in the

  • world. It ranks first based on total GDP and

  • seventh based on GDP per capita.

  • Yet when it comes to food security, America ranks

  • 22nd among developed countries.

  • People are working hard every day in this country

  • to bring food home for theirselves and their

  • families. But right now, in the United States, we

  • are facing a hunger crisis.

  • 33.8 million Americans didn't have adequate

  • access to food, according to the latest report from

  • the USDA. That's 13.5 million or 10.2% of all

  • U.S. households in 2021.

  • I literally stand on Second Avenue at 4:00 in

  • the morning. I'd get off the subway and go around

  • behind the restaurants and wait for the bakeries

  • to deliver bread.

  • When you're that hungry to steal bread from the

  • restaurants behind the stores, you're hungry.

  • Spending on food assistance programs has

  • grown exponentially, reaching a record of

  • $182.5 billion in 2021.

  • But food insecurity has only improved slightly

  • since 2001.

  • While the number of people experiencing very

  • low food security grew slightly during the same

  • period.

  • We see times when the economy is doing better,

  • it improves. But we haven't seen major

  • movements on the metric, I would say.

  • The latest research from the Bread Institute in

  • 2014 says the U.S.

  • has lost almost $5.5 billion due to lost

  • productivity caused by hunger.

  • It's much less expensive to feed you than it is

  • many other of our societal challenges.

  • Let's start with food, because the impact on the

  • system is incredibly expensive and will live on

  • for generations.

  • So why are so many Americans still hungry and

  • what can be done to solve it?

  • Food prices soared to record heights in 2022,

  • pressuring households already in a pinch.

  • Annual food at home prices climbed by 11.4% in

  • 2022 compared to the year prior.

  • Food inflation, as we've seen during the pandemic,

  • has gone up, driven in large part by supply chain

  • disruptions and shortages of food supply during the

  • pandemic.

  • Several experts point to income as the major cause

  • behind food insecurity in America.

  • Issues of affordability and equity are the two

  • driving forces across the United States.

  • You can be working, yet you still need help.

  • And so the wages are not carrying Americans far

  • enough.

  • The resources they have are so strange that paying

  • the light bill, paying for child care, gas to get

  • to work is trading off against food.

  • The financial pressure from buying food gets

  • higher, the less you make .

  • In 2021, the bottom 20% of households with the lowest

  • income spent 30.6% of what they made on food,

  • compared to just 7.6% for households in the highest

  • income quintile.

  • It's a problem that Gregory Bruce, a bow tie

  • maker in Harlem, experiences every day.

  • I have actually $0.88 in my bank account right now.

  • June was not a good bow tie month.

  • I'm not crying, but I still come here every

  • afternoon and get my dinner, which I don't eat

  • until 7:00.

  • The food bank is open five days a week,

  • generally. Saturday and Sunday, there's no food

  • available. And that's when it hits you.

  • Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of households that

  • include a working adult with a disability were

  • food insecure, compared to just 7% of households

  • without disabilities.

  • The leading predictor of food insecurity in United

  • States is disability status by far, especially

  • mental health challenges.

  • Socially disadvantaged individuals are the ones

  • most heavily impacted by food insecurity.

  • Take communities of color, for example.

  • Nearly 1 in 5 Black households and 16.2% of

  • Hispanic households suffered from food

  • insecurity in 2021, compared to just 10.2% of

  • non-Hispanic minority households and 7% of white

  • households.

  • Income is important, but the more important thing

  • is the constraints that, especially those who are

  • most vulnerable amongst us are facing.

  • If economic opportunity isn't equally shared,

  • which it isn't yet in our country, that means that

  • it's going to have the same impact on food

  • insecurity, and it's a problem we need to

  • address.

  • Food deserts have also been widely blamed as

  • another main cause of hunger.

  • USDA estimates that about 53.6 million people, or

  • 17.4% of the population in the U.S.

  • live in areas considered low income and low access,

  • meaning the nearest supermarket is more than

  • one half mile or 10 miles away.

  • Food deserts are something that plague us.

  • It's part of the systematic failure that we

  • have in America.

  • If you don't have access to food, you are just

  • increasing your chances of greater food

  • insecurity.

  • But some experts argue that access isn't the

  • issue. A 2018 study from the National Bureau of

  • Economic Research concluded that exposing

  • low-income households to the same products and

  • prices as high-income households had no

  • meaningful effects on eating habits.

  • All of us in the food insecurity space know that

  • they're completely irrelevant. I'd much

  • rather have somebody have, say, a Walmart

  • within 1.5 miles than a poorly stocked food store

  • within two blocks.

  • In other words, it's food prices that matter, not

  • food access.

  • I think part of this is how problems compound

  • problems. If you are someone who's living in

  • poverty, has very low income, you might be

  • living in a neighborhood that doesn't have great

  • access to high quality grocery stores.

  • So they are a little bit mutually reinforcing.

  • But to me it is the economics and the income

  • are the biggest drivers.

  • Food insecurity is an expensive burden to the

  • U.S. economy as a whole.

  • Food security should be a business imperative.

  • It relates to productivity. It relates

  • to a team that can come in every day and work and

  • create a product.

  • If your workers are hungry, they're going to

  • struggle with work.

  • The latest research from the Bread Institute says

  • the U.S. has lost over $5 billion due to lost

  • productivity caused by hunger as of 2014.

  • If a child is hungry, you cannot teach them.

  • It's not going to happen.

  • And if that brain doesn't develop properly, then

  • there is going to be all kinds of societal problems

  • carried on for generations.

  • Bread Institute also estimates the cost of

  • special education caused by hunger to be over $5.9

  • billion in 2014, while nearly $13 billion are

  • lost due to dropouts attributed to food

  • insecurity in the United States that same year.

  • It frustrates me that our political system and

  • politicians don't grab something so easy.

  • It's much less expensive to feed you than it is

  • many other of our societal challenges.

  • Let's start with food, because the impact on the

  • system is incredibly expensive and again, will

  • live on for generations.

  • The latest data from Feeding America estimates

  • that food insecurity costs the U.S.

  • $52.9 billion in health-care costs back in

  • 2016.

  • There's so many negative health consequences

  • associated with food insecurity.

  • A 2022 analysis from the American Action Forum

  • estimates that just four nutrition related chronic

  • diseases among 18 to 64 year olds cost the U.S.

  • $16 trillion between 2011 and 2020.

  • When you are hungry, your body takes your body away.

  • You are consumed by your inner self.

  • Your brain doesn't function right.

  • You don't think well.

  • Everything goes wrong.

  • And if you're a senior citizen, especially if you

  • have some pr