The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Hunger in the Wealthiest Country in the World

Mar 20, 2023

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 34 million people in the U.S., including nine million children, are “food insecure"—they lack the consistent access to enough food for every person in their family to be healthy. That’s over 10% of the population of the wealthiest country in the world going hungry.

Certainly, the recent ending of supplemental food stamp benefits for nearly 30 million Americans and soaring food prices are a big part of the reason for this hunger. But what is most egregious, perhaps, is the ending of the federally funded universal free school meals program, called a pandemic-era benefits program. That program ended this past fall, much to the shock of the families of nearly 30 million students across the U.S. who had benefited from it.

While it lasted, all school-aged children in the U.S. were eligible for school meals, no questions asked. No money had to pass from the child to the person in the cafeteria before that child could eat; no bureaucratic paperwork had to be filled out by parents; no guidelines were enforced that said “your child is eligible and your child is not.”

But with the end of this federal universal free school meals program, families that had been able to have some cushion to survive all their normal economic challenges to provide for their families, with the additional burdens that came their way during the pandemic, had that cushion pulled out from under them. That program had meant that, at least, their children were getting fed.

But no more, for the most part. While it may be true that a few states are using state money to continue, most have gone back to charging all but the neediest kids for meals. And because schools are pressed to provide meals without the federal money to do it, now families have to make applications that haven’t been necessary for years.

And, to add insult to injury, eligibility guidelines to receive food aid have not kept up with inflation. So more families, even if they could navigate the bureaucracy of filing the applications, don’t qualify because of their incomes. For a family of five, about $42,000 to qualify annually for free meals and $60,000 for reduced price meals. As one single mother said: "I missed the cutoff for reduced meals by $100 of gross income."

Was this universal free school meal program breaking the bank of the federal government? Hell, no! School nutrition programs cost $28.7 billion in the 2022 fiscal year, or less than a half a percent of the 6.27 trillion dollar federal budget. Is spending less than $1,000 per year to feed each school-age child too high a price to pay? Hell, no!!