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Nearly 50 Million Americans Have Difficulty Obtaining Food

New USDA research reveals the huge number of people struggling to eat, the reason our welfare programs are so necessary right now.

Fresh on the heels of a study that showed 15 percent of Americans use food stamps, a new USDA survey has found that more than 17 million U.S. households (PDF) had at least some trouble putting food on the table in 2010. Those 17 million homes account for nearly 50 million people, or more than 16 percent of the American population. Of the millions of households struggling to get enough to eat, almost 60 percent relied on one or more of the nation's three largest nutritional assistance programs: food stamps, the National School Lunch Program, or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

These numbers make conservatives' attempts to cut nutrition benefits for America's neediest all the more worrisome, and, in some cases, offensive. South Carolina's Republican Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer last year compared people receiving food benefits to "stray animals" that "don't know any better": "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals," he said "They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better."

That's a pretty broad brush to use in referring to millions of Americans struggling to feed themselves and their family. Also worth noting: the USDA study omitted homeless families from its statistics, meaning that there are actually countless other hungry Americans we don't even know about.

photo via (cc) Flickr user bsabarnowl

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