Is Hunger Really a Problem in U.S.?
Given everything I hear about obesity stats in the U.S. and malnutrition in the developing world, the last thing I was expecting to find in my inbox this morning was a plea to join a Facebook cause to help end hunger in America. Really?
I’m usually not skeptical in this way, and I’m loath to focus on the negative when it comes to philanthropy, but I can’t get these thoughts out of my head and I’d like some perspective from those who are better informed about the alleged U.S. hunger crisis. In the mean time, here’s my food for thought:
- Generally speaking when I get a Facebook cause request it’s from a friend (or a Friend), but this one came from Causes itself: “Please join the Kellogg Company and Causes as we take small steps towards creating BIG change.”
- When you go to the Causes page it features a giant banner ad for Kellogg and Kellogg as the well-branded sponsor.
- Then when you go to the website the first thing that catches your eye is an image of this family who supposedly is suffering from hunger:
- On the Feeding America website I tried to educate myself on hunger facts but all I could seem to find was poverty statistics and stats related to food-related programs (like how many people used food stamps).
- I understand poverty is a big problem, but unlike in other parts of the world, starving in America is nearly impossible to do. A friend of mine who works tirelessly to provide meals to homeless admits that the food is just a hook to get folks into a graduated self-sufficiency program.
- Being malnourished in the U.S., on the other hand, is becoming increasingly easy to do, especially if you eat Kellogg products which have very few nutrients relative to whole foods, particularly veggies and fruit. Malnutrition in the U.S. manifests itself differently than in poor countries though: obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, cancer, et al.
- I went to Charity Navigator to look into the Feeding America and was surprised to find it gets great marks. I was even more surprised to find that its revenues are $650 Million per year(!) And since they have such an incredibly low overhead rate and spend nearly 97% of all money raised directly on programs to feed the hungry, I’m flabbergasted. Hunger must be a huge and totally unappreciated problem in the U.S. if it can’t be solved with the billions spent trying.
- Looking at the breakdown of the $650M in revenue from their annual report, $560M of it is from “Donated goods and services”. Presumably that’s good and efficient. However I can’t help but wonder how much of that is food grown with subsidies from the government, which then Kellogg writes off against its taxes as an in-kind donation. Does anyone know whether this is the case?
I expect to be taken to task on this, but isn’t it really just a PR move by big businesses who’d rather give away product rather than feed people farther from home at greater expense (or better yet help them become self-sustaining)?