Just Facts Daily: Think Progress exaggerates child hunger by 8,000%
... However, instead of reporting the facts of this important issue, a number of influential media sources are greatly exaggerating the problem.
One of these sources is Think Progress, which ranks among the nation’s top-15 political websites. In a recent article, Alan Pyke, the Deputy Economic Policy Editor of Think Progress, reports that “more than a fifth of America’s children are going hungry,” government food “programs have faced wave upon wave of funding cuts,” and “America does a slightly better job at feeding adults” than children.
All of those statements are categorically false according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Census Bureau, and the White House Office of Management and Budget. These primary sources show, for example, that on an average day, less than 1% of U.S. households with children have a child who experiences hunger.
These sources also show that the annual hunger rate for children is lower than adults and that federal spending on food and nutrition programs has risen by more than two thirds since 2007, even after adjusting for inflation and population growth.
Below is the documentation of these facts, along with the details of how Think Progress has distorted the truth.
“Food insecure” does not mean “hungry”
The crux of Pyke’s misreporting is that he falsely equates food insecurity with hunger. “Food insecurity” is a technical term used by the USDA to categorize households based upon a survey conducted by the Census Bureau.
This annual survey includes a series of questions about food consumption, and if respondents answer “yes” to at least three of ten questions, their households are classified as food insecure. For example, respondents are asked if they ever “worried” that their “food would run out before” they “got money to buy more.” For another example, they are asked if they “couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals.”
According to this survey, 21.6% of children and 15.9% of adults lived in households that were food-insecure at some point during 2012. These are the figures quoted by Pyke, but they do not apply to hunger, especially for children.
The title of Pyke’s article is “More Than A Fifth Of America’s Children Are Going Hungry.” Just to be clear, “hungry” means hungry (not food-insecure), “children” means children (not households), and “going” means currently (not once during the past year). Beyond the standard ten questions in this survey, the Census asked direct questions about child hunger, and the results look nothing like what Pyke reports. ...
... Pyke is not the only purveyor of inflated hunger statistics. PolitiFact, the Pulitzer-Prize winning fact check organization, has alleged: “According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ‘food insecurity’ means that at some point in a year, someone in a household went hungry because the household couldn’t afford food.”
That claim is in direct opposition to what the USDA explicitly states. Again: “Households classified as having low food security have reported multiple indications of food access problems, but typically have reported few, if any, indications of reduced food intake.” ...
The article also includes this graph:
I'm glad to see someone do a detailed analysis of these claims about hunger. I hear and read so many widely varying claims about hunger in the U.S. that it is hard to know what is factual. I simply haven't taken the time to research this myself, and while I didn't know what the right number was (less than 1%), the 21.6% was just preposterous. It is good to understand how the misconception has occurred.