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1/97 Better Snack Brands
Simply Go-Gurt

For the best yogurt tube, check out Simply Go-Gurt. When smart marketers at Yoplait put their yogurt in a tube, created some fun flavors, and called it Go-Gurt, it became the fastest-selling yogurt ever released. But when savvy parents took note of the high-fructose corn syrup content, Yoplait upped their game with Simply Go-Gurt, an HFCS-free alternative. Moms of America said thank you! For parents also concerned about hormones and antibiotics, Stonyfield Farms' Yokids Squeezers are an organic alternative one rung up the price ladder. And since yogurt in a tube will never really be as healthy, or as economical, as yogurt from a big container, try this recipe for making your own yogurt pops! [Gallery by Heather York]

2/97 Better Snack Brands
Larabar

For the best health bar, the verdict is in, and it’s unanimous: the healthiest, tastiest one on the market, according to top health sites, is Larabar. In flavors like Cashew Cookie and Chocolate Coconut, each bar contains only whole, raw ingredients, so all the nutrition—the fiber, protein, good carbs, and healthy fats—comes from real food (not the processed, sugary, trans-fatty ingredients many other “health” bars contain). Visit Larabar’s Facebook page for coupons. And for an even less expensive alternative, make your own bars or keep small baggies of trail mix in your cupboard to grab and go.

3/97 Better Snack Brands
Kashi TLC Cookies

Just because a cookie box says “organic,” doesn’t mean it’s any healthier. If you’re looking for a cookie that’s truly better for you, you’ll love Kashi’s TLC Tasty Little (Chewy) Cookies. Loaded with whole grains and dark chocolate, sweetened naturally with brown rice sugar, and containing no trace of trans fat, they win taste tests hands down. Other brand winners on the cookie aisle: Back to Nature and Newman’s Own are also free of trans fats, refined sugars, and artificial colors and flavors. To save some cookie-cash, sign up to receive Kashi coupons, or fill your cookie jar with these yummy, healthy homemade cookies.

4/97 Better Snack Brands
FSTG Multigrain Chips

Okay, the multigrain tortilla chips from Food Should Taste Good cost a bit more than Tostitos Hint of Lime, but not by much. And look at all the good stuff you get for your buck: quinoa, soy, flax, sesame, and sunflower seeds, all baked into the chip (not sprinkled on top), which provide 20 percent of your daily allotment of brain-boosting omega-3’s. They’re low in sodium and free of gluten, trans fat, MSG, cholesterol, and GMOs. If ever there was a guilt-free chip, this is it. (And they’ll send you coupons!) If they’re still too pricey, at least go for Tostitos Simply Natural Blue or Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips. And for dipping, go with some simple, nutritious pico de gallo!

5/97 Better Snack Brands
Farmer Steve’s Popcorn

To microwave or not to microwave?, that is the question. The answer, in a word, is diacetyl. Translation: a synthetic chemical additive—often disguised on labels as “artificial butter flavor”—that when heated and inhaled can lead to a disease called Popcorn Lung. Really? Yes, really. To get the high-fiber, low-cal benefits of popcorn, the best way is to pop it yourself. But if you’re a slave to your microwave, stick with the plain varieties like Farmer Steve’s Popcorn, then spice them up with your own seasonings. Other options: Newman’s Own Organic (No Butter No Salt) and Bearitos Organic (No Oil Added).

6/97 Better Snack Brands
Dove Extra Dark

OK, chocolate is more of a dessert than a snack but cacao beans are packed with flavonoids that protect against heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. But not all chocolate is created equal, and not all brands deliver the goods. Milk chocolate, with its high-sugar content, can do more harm than good. And dark chocolate should have at least 60 percent cocoa content. On the back, if it lists sugar as the first ingredient, contains unhealthy fats or chemical sweeteners, or has been stripped of antioxidants by alkali or Dutch-processing (like Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar), put it back! But Dove’s Extra Dark Chocolate 63% Cacao fits the bill. Also good: Ghirardelli Twilight Delight 72%, Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 70%.

7/97 Better Snack Brands
Smucker’s Natural PB

Spread over bread, bananas, and most everything else, peanut butter is the ultimate comfort snack, plus it’s a nice source of protein. But not so fast! Many brands are loaded with added sugars and fats (including those terrible trans fats). Check your labels to make sure you’re getting only the true-blue ingredients, like you will with Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter. For a healthy PB&J sandwich, pick up Arnold Natural 100% Whole Wheat Bread or Pepperidge Farm 100% Natural Whole Wheat Bread and Polaners’ All Fruit Spreadable or Simply 100% Fruit Spread. If you’re a peanut-free household, try Sunbutter!

8/97 Better Snack Brands
Take Part

For tips on how to navigate the supermarket, better understand labels, and find healthy, tasty, affordable brand-name foods, visit eBrandAid and Supermarketsavvy.com. Find coupons and special offers on whole foods and organic brands at Healthy Life Deals.

9/97 Better Snack Brands
More Great Reading

For genetically modified foods it’s sort of the Wild West out there. We’re not at all sure how they affect people yet, how they affect the environment is also up in the air, and manufacturers don’t even have to state whether their products contain GMOs on their packaging. Consumers deserve to know more! Check out 10 celebs who are using their star power to support California’s move to label GMOs.

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1/119 Stars Who Beat Hunger
Oprah Winfrey

Before she became one of the world’s richest and most powerful women, Oprah grew up impoverished in rural Mississippi, literally wearing potato sacks for clothes and wondering where her next meal would come from. Now she’s worth $2.7 billion.

2/119 Stars Who Beat Hunger
Shania Twain

Country pop megastar Shania Twain grew up in the rugged wilderness of Ontario, Canada, in a household too poor to pay for heat and often food. She hid the fact that she didn’t have lunch from her teachers, and by the age of eight was singing in bars to make an extra $20 for her family.

3/119 Stars Who Beat Hunger
Dr. Phil

When he was 12 years old, Dr. Phil was homeless, living in a car with his father in Kansas City. They struggled to feed themselves, but eventually managed to put together $5 per week to move to a YMCA, and later a small apartment with no water, electricity, heat, or air conditioning.

4/119 Stars Who Beat Hunger
Sandra Lee

With several hit shows on Food Network and 25 books to her name, Sandra Lee knows a thing or two about cooking food. But when she was a teen, she effectively parented her four siblings and her bedridden, prescription drug-addicted mother. They relied on welfare, food stamps, and neighborhood odd jobs, like making potholders she priced at $1 a pair.

5/119 Stars Who Beat Hunger
will.i.am

The Black Eyed Peas front man grew up in an impoverished area of Los Angeles, and left his home every morning at 5 a.m. to get to school in a "better" neighborhood. "When you're on food stamps and lunch tickets," he's said, "missing breakfast is not good for a kid."

6/119 Stars Who Beat Hunger
J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling was a struggling, single mother living on welfare and food stamps before she started writing the Harry Potter series. Several novels, films, and various other projects later, she's made over a billion dollars and given about 160 million away to charity.

7/119 Stars Who Beat Hunger
Charlie Chaplin

Before he reached the age of 10, Charlie Chaplin’s father had died and his mother was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, leaving young Charlie to fend for himself on the streets of London, begging for money and food.

8/119 Stars Who Beat Hunger
Ruth Riley

Winner of the NCAA and the WNBA championships, plus gold at the Olympic Games, basketball star Ruth Riley says that as a child, food stamps helped her have enough energy to play basketball and study so she could go to college.

9/119 Stars Who Beat Hunger
Justin Bieber

Today Justin Bieber is a household name and mega teen heartthrob, but he grew up with limited resources, living in a rat-infested house with an empty fridge, sleeping on a pull-out couch, and eating macaroni and cheese from a box. Now he’s worth over $65 million.

10/119 Stars Who Beat Hunger
Take Part

October 16 is World Hunger Day, a time to reflect on and discuss where our food comes from and how to make the production of safe and healthy food more sustainable and affordable for all of us. Find out what you can do.

11/119 Stars Who Beat Hunger
More Great Reading

Find out which music icons speak up and rock out for the issues they believe in by checking out our story Musicians Who Rock for a Cause.

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1/7Q&A With Jeff Gordon
Question #1

How long have you known about the problem of hunger in the senior population and can you tell us a little about it?


Jeff Gordon: That’s one of the things that really drew us to this program, and what was so shocking was that, like most people, we didn’t know prior to AARP approaching us. People feel that hunger issues of this magnitude are something that happen outside of our country—in developing countries. And so when you start to hear that 9 million 50-and-over are struggling with hunger in America it definitely got our attention.

2/7Q&A With Jeff Gordon
Question #2

You've volunteered with this community. Anything that struck you about the situation?


JG: It’s how you go around from city to city and go to different food banks and organizations that are helping, and you just keep hearing one story after another of how many people are being affected by this. And there is always someone who’s an aunt or uncle, or grandma or grandpa, or mom and dad. And each of the stories will get your attention.

3/7Q&A With Jeff Gordon
Question #3

Who is one of your favorite older people and why?


JG: My grandmother. She just turned 92. I just spoke to her on her birthday. She’s always been very, very special in my life. She is obviously my biggest fan. She was excited to hear from me, and we talked a little racing. She mentioned how thankful she was that I was supporting this because now, getting to her age, she understands what other people who she knows are going through and how important this is, and how many people are really being affected by hunger.

4/7Q&A With Jeff Gordon
Question #4

Does racing for a cause change any part of the race day experience for you?


JG: I represented a lot of companies over the years—a lot of years and a lot of products—but I’ve never had a primary sponsor who’s trying to save lives or feed people and help those who are 50 and over. So when you know that lives can depend on these donations and these volunteers and the corporate sponsorship, we can get to bring more awareness and create more programs to help this cause—you know I’ve never had that kind of pressure on me, that’s for sure. We joke about it all the time, but we’re serious at the same time, that those results we have on Sunday really, truly, have an impact far beyond just getting a trophy or winning a race.

5/7Q&A With Jeff Gordon
Question #5

Your fans seem to be missing your mustache, could you be convinced to grow it back for the right cause?


JG: Absolutely! You know I grew it once, I can grow it again. You know I sort of lost a bet—or won a bet, depending on how you want to look at it—to bring it back. I’ve definitely said if we get ourselves back into this championship and into contention, I’ll bring it back. I have to. No doubt.

6/7Q&A With Jeff Gordon
Take Part

Hunger is a fact of life for many older Americans. Millions do not know where their next meal will come from. Drive to End Hunger is a multi-year initiative launched by the AARP and AARP Foundation to raise awareness about the problem of hunger among struggling Americans over 50 and to develop longterm, sustainable solutions to the problem. So far the initiative has donated over 13.2 million meals. Whether you give $5 or $5,000 or have five minutes or five hours to volunteer, every bit counts. For more information go to www.DrivetoEndHunger.org.

7/7Q&A With Jeff Gordon
More Great Reading

One reason seniors have trouble putting food on their tables is the cost of expensive pharmaceuticals. Check out The Most Expensive Prescription Drugs in the U.S.

Reality Check
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1/9Senior Hunger State by State
#7 Louisiana: 8.32%

In a state battered by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Isaac, seniors face unique and daunting challenges. Too many must redirect their little resources to rebuilding homes; nearby food retailers have gone bust; and public transportation is fragmented at best. Food for Families/Food for Seniors, a collaboration between the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the USDA, offers 40-pound boxes of goods such as evaporated milk, canned meat, fruits, and peanut butter, which cover about 20 meals a month, so seniors can better live within their budgets. [Gallery by Christopher Elam]

2/9Senior Hunger State by State
#6 Georgia: 8.74%

The number of Georgia seniors threatened by hunger has shot up 78 percent in the last 10 years, with many forced to choose between buying medication or meals. This has put enormous strain on state programs already hit by the country’s financial crisis. The heavy lifting, literally, falls to groups like Meals on Wheels, which relies on volunteers to deliver donated food. Homebound seniors in Atlanta have never experienced longer waiting lists for its services. With food prices up 6 percent over the last year, the recession, and high gas prices, Meals on Wheels’ operations are being severely tested.

3/9Senior Hunger State by State
#5 Arkansas: 9.61%

The plight of Arkansas seniors is exacerbated by factors common to the entire region: low incomes, limited education, and the physical inability to prepare or access food. One bright spot has been the brilliantly simple Stamp Out Hunger food drive, spearheaded by the National Association of Letter Carriers. In 2012, Arkansas postal letter carriers picked up nearly 345 tons of donated food from customers (double the haul of last year), using 784,000 collection bags provided by the AARP Foundation, and delivered them to local food banks and food pantries.

4/9Senior Hunger State by State
#4 South Carolina: 9.66%

South Carolina is a popular state for retirement, which drives its own set of challenges. “We have a more mobile society,” says Jayne McQueen, president of Mobile Meal Service of Spartanburg County. “Families are no longer nearby to help. Plus, we find that some people may be near, but don’t choose to take care of their senior relatives.” Making matters worse, adds Susan Douglas of the surplus food nonprofit Loaves and Fishes, is poor communication. “Seniors often don’t talk about their food insecurity. They’re independent-minded and they’re embarrassed.”

5/9Senior Hunger State by State
#3 Texas: 9.67%

A "tsunami of need" is heading towards Texas, according to a man who should know, Ryan Robinson, the demographer for the city of Austin. "The situation will get far worse for seniors, simply because you’re going to have a growing base and increasing resource competition—more and more groups struggling for government dollars." These groups inlcude the huge growth of very young children. "These children need education and other services, which cost money. Seniors have huge needs, but there's going to be lots of competition from younger groups battling for precious dollars."

6/9Senior Hunger State by State
#2 New Mexico: 10.01%

In New Mexico, where the senior hunger problem is acute, hungry seniors are more likely to eat nutritionally insufficient food, be in poor health, and have limited daily activity. These are all factors that increase the need for eventual hospital care—which we end up paying for through Medicare. But Samantha Blaukamp, executive director of Meals on Wheels in Albuquerque, has good news: We can provide home-delivered meals to a senior for an entire year for roughly the cost of a single Medicare day in a hospital. Plus, it dramatically improves that senior’s quality of life. The choice, she says, is ours.

7/9Senior Hunger State by State
#1 Mississippi: 12.45%

Number one in poverty, overall hunger, and senior hunger, Mississippi urgently needs low-cost solutions. One option is to encourage more nonprofit/for-profit partnerships, such as this year’s pilot program Urban League - Tyson Foods Hunger Project Mississippi. The civil rights organization and the global food processor have joined forces to alleviate hunger for 19,000 seniors in several Mississippi counties, which will be expanded over time. This grassroots, community-based effort includes free nutrition fairs, where Mississippians can learn about healthy food preparation, couponing, food agency resources, food stamp programs, and health and wellness education.

8/9Senior Hunger State by State
Take Part

Do you feel we need to take better care of our senior citizens? If so, you can make an impact by taking the Meals on Wheels Pledge to End Senior Hunger by 2020. You can also pledge to volunteer for a local Meals On Wheels program, generate awareness about senior hunger, make a donation, share your story, or provide ideas about how we as a country can end senior hunger by 2020.

9/9Senior Hunger State by State
More Great Reading

Missed any meals today? If not, someone near you has. Find out more important facts about hunger in America with our infographic story, the United States of Hungry.

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1/86 Great Big Food Stamp Myths
#1

Myth: Food stamp fraud is widespread.


Fact: The food stamp program sees $750 million in fraud. That sounds like a whopping number, and it is, but it’s also just one percent of the total food stamp budget, according to Reuters. Error rates are at record lows: “Fewer than 2 percent of SNAP benefits are issued to households that do not meet all of the program’s eligibility requirements,” reports the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. [Gallery by Megan Bedard; See links for sources.]

2/86 Great Big Food Stamp Myths
#2

Myth: People who get food stamps are typically unemployed.


Fact: If you’re able-bodied, between the ages of 18 and 50, and fit to work, you must be employed or participate in an employment training program to receive food stamps. Those who aren’t working can only receive food stamps for three months during a three-year period. (Laws are different for the elderly and people with disabilities.)

3/86 Great Big Food Stamp Myths
#3

Myth: Food stamps cost tax payers too much.


Fact: According to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, food stamps cost one cent of every federal budget dollar, but The USDA also concludes that food stamps stimulate the economy because, "Every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates $9.00 in total community spending," as measured in the economy overall.

4/86 Great Big Food Stamp Myths
#4

Myth: People who don’t need food stamps are using them and taking them away from those who really do.


Fact: Critics of food stamps have pointed to college students or "hipsters" as evidence that the food stamp program accepts people who don’t really need assistance. But eligibility requirements regarding income, resources, and employment status are strict. Many low-income workers can attest that it is not easy to qualify. Also, SNAP is an entitlement program, which means that anyone who applies and meets necessary criteria will get food stamps. There aren't a limited number of available spots in the program.

5/86 Great Big Food Stamp Myths
#5

Myth: Half of food stamp recipients are undocumented immigrants.


Fact: This often comes up during discussions on immigration reform, but undocumented immigrants are not—and have never been—eligible for SNAP. Furthermore, as PolitiFact points out, the idea that undocumented immigrants, who numbered approximately 11.2 million people in 2010, could account for half of participants, who number upwards of 40 million, is mathematically impossible. What is true is that income-eligible children of undocumented immigrants may be eligible for food stamps.

6/86 Great Big Food Stamp Myths
#6

Myth: Too much federal money allotted to food stamps is wasted on overhead.


Fact: In 2007, the USDA says that 92 percent of its spending went directly to food stamps. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has collected information that shows only a quarter of a percent of federal SNAP spending went to federal administrative costs in 2010. Including state administrative costs brings that number to four percent. Another one percent goes to nutrition education and employment and training services for SNAP recipients. In the end they said, "some 94.6 percent of federal spending went directly for food that the program’s low-income beneficiaries purchased."

7/86 Great Big Food Stamp Myths
Take Part

Get involved in the fight to end childhood hunger in your own community. Enter your info and find out what’s going on around your town.

8/86 Great Big Food Stamp Myths
More Great Reading

Looking for new recipes that taste amazing but don't cost a whole lot? Time to check out our series of Cheap, Sustainable, Delicious recipes by food expert of Gourmet fame, Ian Knauer.

Real-Life Action Hero
Sarah Fuss, TakePart.com

Slam-Dunking Hunger: LA Laker Dwight Howard Gets in the Game

Los Angeles Lakers “Superman” Dwight Howard isn’t just a hero on the basketball court; he’s also fighting hunger in the streets with Blessings in a Backpack, a program that sends food home every Friday with elementary school kids who are on the Free and Reduced-Price Meal Program. Because, as the organization says, “Hunger doesn’t take weekends off.”


Along with his D12 Foundation and the Orlando Magic, Howard has helped sponsor the work of Blessings in a Backpack in three schools, two in America and one in Haiti. Over the past several years his work with the program has affected 620 children. Here, Howard talks about how this issue became front and center for him.

Q:
What in your life made the issue of hunger important to you?
A:

Early on in my career, I became very involved in the community. Through my outreach, my eyes were opened to just how many kids go hungry every day right here in our own communities.

Q:
Is the basketball community concerned with this issue, or is it more something you pursue independently?
A:

This became a personal issue for me. I believe many players support various hunger organizations, but I wanted to be sure the kids I can reach don’t go to bed hungry.

Q:
Have you had a particularly inspiring experience working to fight hunger?
A:

I really enjoyed my interaction with the kids from Lake Como Elementary School in Orlando. To see these kids grow from year to year gave me the sense that we are making a difference.

Q:
What do you love about Blessings in a Backpack?
A:

Blessings in a Backpack makes it easy to make a difference. They provide us with what we need, whether on a local level or in our overseas efforts, like our project in Haiti.

Q:
The world produces enough food to feed the world. What do you think it will take to get everyone fed?
A:

I hope there is a day when no child is hungry. At my D12 Foundation, we say it will take one person, one city, one nation at a time. We need the support from others.



MORE:
8 Celeb Chefs Leading the Charge Against Hunger
Imagining Gold: How Imagery Helps Athletes Boost Performance
Solution Story
Seattle’s Magical (and Free) Food Forest
Alison Singh Gee, TakePart.com

Alison Singh Gee, TakePart.com

Imagine this: A 22-acre expanse of green, thick with fertile trees, branches hanging heavy with apples, grapefruit, pears, peaches, and walnuts. Beneath them lie blueberry, raspberry, and huckleberry shrubs whose fruit grows sweet in the sun. And all of these are offered free to anyone who walks by and plucks.


Think of it as a modern-day Eden. Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest is a huge public plot, once-neglected, and now being transformed into a vital edible wilderness. "This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park," Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect for the project, told TakePart’s Clare Leschin-Hoar in February.


In the works since 2010, the Food Forest finally breaks ground at the beginning of October. In addition to the garden of abundance, the Food Forest will also offer garden plots for families (at a nominal yearly fee), a demonstration garden, workshops, and sheltered areas for community members to meet. "We should have the trees in first, and by next spring we’ll have the family plots available so people can grow crops all summer long," says Glenn Herlihy, a cofounder and member of the Food Forest's steering committee, and a landscape designer by trade.


MORE: Finding Nemo and 5 Other Eco-Friendly Movies for Your Kids


But keep in mind, the Beacon Food Forest is not just an opportunity to harvest. "This is about getting involved in your community, getting into workshops and learning to make your own seeds. This is about having fun," says Herlihy. The Food Forest's founding members and its small army of volunteers are cultivating the space using a gardening technique called permaculture, which mimics a woodland ecosystem but substitutes edible trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals.


And they are inviting and including all of Seattle, not just a privileged few, to participate. Through outreach groups, the Food Forest is spreading the word of its mission to the neighboring Somalian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese communities, listening to their ideas for which special vegetables and trees to plant, and getting everyone involved and learning. "We want to teach people about regenerating public land and turning it into a food source for the local community. We plan to talk about the value of locally grown organic food, and why it's important to get everyone together," says Herlihy.


MORE: 10 Celebs Who Support GMO Food Labeling


But even Eden had rules, and so does the Beacon Food Forest. In exchange for family plots and foraging rights, the group asks for volunteer hours. "If you're hungry and need something to eat, that’s what the trees are there for," says Herlihy. "We hope to create enough for everyone. But this is not about coming to the Food Forest and wiping out a tree. We'd like everyone to be involved and donate a few work hours a month."


It’s a vision that clearly has a lot of fans. The Beacon Food Forest has heard from groups as far as China, Portugal, and Australia who want to start up their own "fruitopia." To these interested parties, the Seattle group offers vital advice about getting in touch with city agencies, applying for grants, and finding essential permaculture information. "This is about abundance," says Herlihy. "We try to help those who need food to learn to grow and feed themselves. We turn no one away."

Watch

To Eat Is to Dream


The Future Fortified campaign launched a new video with artist and children's book author, Dallas Clayton (of An Awesome Book) looking at the connection between creativity, learning and nutrition.
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To Eat Is to Dream


The Future Fortified campaign launched a new video with artist and children's book author, Dallas Clayton (of An Awesome Book) looking at the connection between creativity, learning and nutrition.
Fight Hunger Locally
With hunger at such a high, there’s work to be done everywhere. Find out what you can do in your neighborhood.
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    While food banks help, they aren’t long-term answers. We need to end the cycle of poverty. Share the facts with your community: bit.ly/takepartfacts
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    1/129 Hungriest States of America
    America's Very Big Problem
    According to the USDA’s most recent report, one in seven households live in hunger, and more than one in five children live in homes that struggle to put food on the table. In addition, many of these households are led by single moms who report not eating so their children can. America has a very, very big problem. Read on to learn what’s happening in these nine states where hunger rates significantly exceed the national average, which is already a high 14.6 percent. [Gallery by Christopher Elam]
    2/129 Hungriest States of America
    #9 North Carolina: 15.7%
    According to the Food Research and Action Center, Winston-Salem is the metro area in the U.S. with the most “food insecure” families, or households that have a hard time putting food on the table. “You say ‘hunger’ and people think of children in a third world country. They don’t think of the person next door,” says Tammy Caudill of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC. “But it is the person next door.”
    3/129 Hungriest States of America
    #8 California: 15.9%
    For a state that grows nearly half of the nation’s fruit, nuts, and vegetables, and produces more than 400 commodities, it’s surprising that California has a hunger problem. Indeed, 1.7 million Los Angeles County residents struggle with hunger, more than any other county in the U.S., according to a recent survey. "We attribute this to the extraordinary cost of living and low wages," says Matthew Sharp of California Food Policy Advocates. "Unemployment remains high in our state, and those returning to the workforce often can’t get the hours or salaries they need."
    4/129 Hungriest States of America
    #7 Florida: 16.1%
    While Florida ranks number seven in food insecurity, it rates number one in “hunger costs.” This figure tabulates not the price of federal nutrition programs, but the cost of hunger-related illness, lost economic productivity, philanthropies that feed the poor, and the effects of hungry children falling behind in school. The high number of foreclosures and tenacious unemployment are cited as prime factors in Florida. The ultimate effect: Families are forced to feed their children cheap food that lacks nutritional value, which drives up long-term medical costs.
    5/129 Hungriest States of America
    #6 Ohio: 16.4%
    In the last three years, Ohio has risen from number 12 up to number six on the national hunger scale. Critics point to unrelenting poverty and stubborn employment. “Our economy isn’t recovering, and the jobs that are there don’t pay a livable wage,” says Lisa Hamler-Fuggit of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks. Ohio’s Nothing Campaign acknowledges that so many have nothing to eat by asking you to buy a Can of Nothing for $3 to provide 12 meals to feed friends and neighbors.
    6/129 Hungriest States of America
    #5 Georgia: 16.9%
    The children of working Americans are increasingly going to bed hungry. In Georgia, 39 percent of food insecure children live in households that are 185 percent above the poverty line, according to the Georgia Food Bank Association. Thus they are ineligible for most federal food nutrition programs. The term “working poor” is alive and well in Georgia, and in our country as a whole.
    7/129 Hungriest States of America
    #4 Alabama: 17.3%
    The majority of Alabama’s 670,000 impoverished residents live in rural areas. That’s why the Alabama Coalition Against Hunger focuses on an alternative means for addressing hunger: community gardening. It develops county community gardens that operate thanks to donated land, equipment, supplies, and labor. The goal is for as much of the labor as possible to be performed by those who will ultimately receive the free fresh vegetables and fruit.
    8/129 Hungriest States of America
    #3 Arkansas: 18.6%
    Arkansas’s hunger problems are entrenched, with 27.6 percent of its children living in poverty. Seniors are having a hard time, too. A popular meal program reports that its elderly participants have a monthly income of about $79 after rent and utilities. Arkansas Rice Depot, the only statewide food bank network in Arkansas, distributes over 8 million pounds of food and supplies a year through 900 hunger relief programs. In 2011, they fed 15 percent of the entire population of Arkansas.
    9/129 Hungriest States of America
    #2 Texas: 18.8%
    Although the governor says jobs are way up, the state has a soaring hunger problem. What’s worse, only half of Texans eligible for food stamps currently receive benefits. “Many folks think they don’t qualify because they have jobs, or that they’d be taking benefits away from someone needier,” says J.C. Dwyer at the Texas Food Bank Network. “Neither is true.” Indeed, the state doesn’t access nearly $4 billion in federal food stamp funds available to its citizens every year.
    10/129 Hungriest States of America
    #1 Mississippi: 19.4%
    With the top hunger rate in the nation, and the highest percentage of Americans living under the poverty line, Mississippi faces daunting challenges, which call for unique programs. Powered by the boundless appeal of college sports, The Million Meal Challenge asks students, alumni, and fans of regional rivals Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and University of Memphis to donate one million meals during the football and basketball seasons to help feed hungry families.
    11/129 Hungriest States of America
    Take Part
    Food banks help relieve hunger, but they aren’t the end-all answer. When a full-time, minimum wage worker can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment for her family in any American state, that means the minimum wage needs to rise. Find out what you don’t know about the minimum wage and share this link with your community.
    12/129 Hungriest States of America
    More Great Reading
    It makes sense that people who work with food all day would make good soldiers in the war on hunger. Certain cooks have taken this call very seriously. Check out which of your favorite celeb chefs are throwing down to fight hunger.
    Real-Life Action Hero
    Alison Singh Gee, TakePart.com

    Jonathan Bloom: What You Don’t Know About American Food Waste
    Americans make up five percent of the world’s population, but they generate 30 percent of the globe’s trash. If that’s not shocking enough, consider this: The individual American throws away some 197 pounds of food a year—that means over 100 billion pounds of food is wasted each year, roughly enough to feed about 1.7 billion people. In his book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), American journalist and blogger Jonathan Bloom turns his gaze on the food-waste epidemic. He speaks with TakePart's Alison Singh Gee about who and what’s to blame and how we can reduce our own waste.
    Q:
    What is the most astounding aspect of America’s food waste? How much do we actually waste, and in which ways do we waste?
    A:

    As a nation, we waste a full 40 percent of the food we produce. That means, from farm to fork, almost half of our food isn’t consumed. To give a sense of what that looks like, we’re wasting enough food every day to fill the Rose Bowl, that 90,000-plus-seat stadium in California.


    MORE: New Solutions Target Food Waste Problem
    Q:
    During your reporting for this book, did you meet Americans who were desperately hungry?
    A:

    There are millions of Americans who go to bed hungry each night. And then there are millions more who are “food insecure,” meaning their eating was disrupted at times during the year due to lack of funds. USDA research found that 15 percent of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2010.


    In reporting for this book, I spoke with a couple named Roy and Diane who had been homeless and were struggling to get back on their feet. They stressed to me that they go out of their way to avoid wasting food because they vividly remember the emotional and physical pain of being hungry. They particularly lamented the wasted food we often encounter in restaurants.

    Q:
    How did your interest in food and food waste begin?
    A:

    I’ve always loved food. My parents passed on that love. We ate dinner together every night and organized our vacations around where we’d be eating. To this day, a common lunch conversation will focus on where we’re having dinner. As an adult with my own family, I’ve tried to temper this instinct. The results, though, have been poor (albeit tasty).


    My interest in food waste, which sounds odd, began thanks to a volunteer experience at D.C. Central Kitchen, an innovative food-recovery operation not far from the Capitol. I witnessed the staggering amount of high-quality food D.C. Central had rescued from supermarkets, restaurants, caterers, and wholesalers to feed the hungry. I then began asking questions about how much food isn’t rescued nationwide, every day. That exploration led to my blog, and, ultimately, American Wasteland.

    Q:
    What in the American mindset causes us to so easily waste food?
    A:

    Our love of abundance, on the micro and macro scale, yields much waste. Farmers grow as much as they possibly can, then don’t harvest or sell a good amount of it. Supermarkets order and stock an unnecessary amount of food. And we buy so much fresh food that we couldn’t possibly eat all of it before it goes bad. This is linked to the human instinct to protect against starvation, but we put a real spin of “American excess” on it.


    Another factor at play is the more recent phenomenon of demanding perfect, beautiful food. We’ve reached a point where appearance trumps taste. Anything that’s the wrong shape, size, color, or is slightly imperfect in any way will be cast aside. And given the national and international food chain, this means a dramatic amount of waste.

    Q:
    How do farmers add to this waste? Foodies? Kindergarteners?
    A:

    Farmers, as I mentioned, plant too much. While prompted by an innocent motivation—having enough in case of problems with their crop—it still yields waste.


    Foodies are smack in the middle of the subset of folks who want their food to look perfect. This desire—manifested through glossy magazines, food TV shows, and, more recently, Instagram-ed food shots—helps create a marketplace where imperfect food items are shunned.


    Kindergarteners I can’t find too much fault with, aside from their poor spelling. Yet, we often teach school kids to waste food during school lunch by requiring students to take all of the items, even if they have no interest in them. The resulting garbage cans full of whole foods and milks are disgraceful. Meanwhile, at home, we as a society could probably do better to communicate that food isn’t something to be squandered.



    MORE:
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    Turning Restaurant Wastewater Into Electricity? Really?
    Number Shock
    Who's Going Hungry, Why, and What You Can Do
    TakePart.com

    Justin Kemerling, TakePart.com

    Many Americans think it’s only homeless people who deal with hunger in the U.S., but that’s far from the truth: 49 million Americans—16 percent of the country—are not sure where their next meal is coming from. When kids are going hungry in a nation that wastes enough food daily to fill the Rose Bowl, we can be sure our priorities are out of whack. Here are a few facts that should shock you into action.


    Fact: More than one in five kids in America struggles with hunger.
    (Source: USDA, 2010)


    What it means: Enough food is grown in America to feed everyone, so we have a big moral problem on our hands. These hungry kids have trouble learning in school because they’re focused on filling their tummies. They’ll also have more health problems than their parents’ generation because the foods they do get are the cheapest available and the least nutritious.


    What you can do: Donate healthy food to your local food bank.


    Fact: By the age of 20, one in two young people will have lived in a household receiving food stamps.
    (Source: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Vul. 163 (No.11). November 2009)


    What it means: If this many children are growing and subsisting on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP aka food stamps), we need to give them more nutritious food to eat than what $4.46 per day can buy.


    Fact: The total economic cost of so many people being overweight and obese in the United States is $300 billion per year. (In 2009, 63.1% of all adults in the U.S. were either overweight or obese.)
    (Source: The Society of Actuaries, 2011)


    What it means: By giving so little money to the SNAP program, recipients may eat unhealthy foods, gain weight, and get sick, which costs tax dollars in state hospital fees and costs employers in sick days. In other words, we could be spending less money on health care and more to raise and support strong, healthy workers and innovators and to protect our seniors.


    What you can do: Tell your representatives to protect access to food for those who really need it.


    Fact: In 2008, more than $1.1 billion in federally funded benefits were left unclaimed by 22 cities and urban counties.
    (Source: Food Research and Action Center, 2011)


    What it means: You have to be no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline to qualify for SNAP, but not enough people who qualify know they are eligible. It also means there could be enough money to allocate more funds to recipients.


    What you can do: Find out if you qualify for SNAP.


    Fact: Poverty is the primary cause of hunger in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census.
    (Source: US Census)


    What it means: It sounds simple, but the fact that it is poverty—not food scarcity or another obstacle—that keeps people from eating means that addressing the causes of poverty is the way to solve the hunger problem.


    Fact: The number of states in which a person working full-time at minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment: zero.
    (Source: National Low Income Housing Commission)


    What it means: It means that even hard-working people can’t afford to live in basic quarters and feed their families in America.

    Watch

    A Place at the Table


    From the people who brought you Food, Inc. comes a documentary about hunger in the U.S. through the lens of three people struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader.
    Share This

    A Place at the Table


    From the people who brought you Food, Inc. comes a documentary about hunger in the U.S. through the lens of three people struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader.
    #FightHunger