Every year for the past two decades, the US Department of Agriculture has released a report on hunger and food insecurity in the United States. You may have read about these in the past. Prior reports have all received coverage, particularly when the news was positive and people could feel good about the progress we were making in feeding folks in need.
But this year’s report—released on September 6 and filled with worrisome trends—has been met with silence. I have not been able to find a single mention of it in the mainstream media: not one national television news program, major newspaper, or national radio show. NPR and the Associated Press have always reported on it in the past, according to Joel Berg, the CEO of Hunger Free America, but both ignored it this year.
This omission is partly a product of our current news overload, the result of having a psychopath president with a genius for generating headlines. Media organizations have invested heavily in covering Trump’s antics, and there is only so much money and space available for everything else, especially the kind of news that does not bring in advertising (unlike, say, celebrity gossip or sports). But Trump’s circus-barker talents serve not only his intended purpose—to keep the attention of the world on his buffoonish behavior—but to steer our eyes away from how he and his minions are undermining virtually everything worthwhile about the US government. Trump overwhelms the news, helping his own class of robber-baron cronies as they quietly rape the earth, pollute our shared natural resources, and seek to destroy what remains of our personal freedoms and democratic norms. And if you take a look at what’s going on in the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, and nearly anywhere else in the executive branch, you can see the success of this system.
The news on hunger is bad, but it’s all the more shocking when you consider that, during the most recent year covered in the USDA report, the Dow Jones industrial average rose by 13 percent, and the collective net worth of the 400 wealthiest Americans, according to Forbes, increased to $2.4 trillion. At the same time, the number of Americans classified as “food insecure” remained 5 million higher than in 2007, before the recession. That number—41 million Americans—is larger than the combined populations of Texas, Michigan, and Maine. Candidate Barack Obama pledged to end child hunger in the United States back in 2008. But that went about as well as the plan to close Gitmo. After Obama’s two terms, we still have nearly 13 million food-insecure children.