The American middle class is being squeezed from all sides for many years now including oil prices, job loss, runaway health care inflation, housing prices and student loans (the so-called big five). One of the consequences is that many families go to bed hungry as reported in the National Geographic (August 2014, Page 66-89).
Hunger in America is spreading to more and more middle-class families. It looks very different from hunger in sub-Saharan Africa which is due to abject poverty and civil war. An American middle-class family suffering from hunger typically features the following:
The household consists of two or more children, maybe one senior parent living with them. The husband or wife has a full-time job but the wage is not high enough to pay for all the household expenses. The other spouse works some odd jobs but mostly stays at home to care for the kids because the small amounts of money earned are not enough to pay for child care when the spouse is away to work.
The family rents a house or may live in government-subsidized housing. They own a car for it is a necessity living in the American suburb, not a luxury as in some other countries. They live from one paycheck to another with no savings at all. Their budget is so tight that they often need to get a cash advance from a paycheck lender who charges a high daily interest. Every month, the family juggles between food, gasoline, car payment, housing payment, utility bills and others. Food is the only item they can sacrifice in quantity and quality, but not the others which are necessary for maintaining the family at the bare-bone level.
Due to low income, the household qualifies for “food stamps” from the federal government which they use to buy food at the supermarket. The children also qualify for free lunch at school. In addition, they receive donated foods from charity agencies like the “food banks”. Still, all these are limited subsidies and do not provide for a decent meal when the money of the present paycheck runs out before the next one comes.
One thing stands out in the hungry American middle class is that they are usually overweight. Why? The reason is the food quality. Poor people rely on donated food, which mostly consists of canned or preserved food high in fats and sugar content. Because fast food sold by popular chain restaurants is cheaper and more convenient than fresh food, the poor also end up eating more fast food than average. Fast food is known as junk food due to its high contents of fats and sugar.
Some experts point out that in America, hunger and overweight go hand in hand as a twin problem, not a paradox. The American poor have mostly low-quality junk food to eat. On the other hand, people in other countries suffering from poverty and hunger don’t have enough of anything to eat.