At times I have to stop and take it in again: We the People live in a nation that, among other things, seems to think that “food insecurity” and health care as a product are just fine. Or just the way things are. Or maybe, just too complicated to consider in any kind of comprehensive manner. It’s more difficult to avoid the realities of an incredibly expensive / incredibly inefficient health care system, simply because millions of us have no, or have inadequate, health insurance. Hunger, or “food insecurity,” is probably easier to miss, or look the other way.

At the United State Department of Agriculture: (emphasis added)

Food security means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

How far anyone falls below that standard varies greatly, of course. “Enough” food is one major consideration. The kind of food you can afford is another, as you factor in both budget and what will be most “filling.” Nutritional needs are a luxury at that point.

More from the USDA, from a September 2012 report:

An estimated 85.1 percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2011, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (14.9 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 5.7 percent with very low food security”“meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. The prevalence rate of very low food security increased from 5.4 percent in 2010, returning to the level observed in 2008 and 2009. … The typical food-secure household spent 24 percent more on food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and household composition. Fifty-seven percent of all food-insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs during the month prior to the 2011 survey.

Counting those who are “food insecure,” who do not have enough to eat, is kind of like counting the un-and under-employed “” that is, if you don’t show up on an official list of some kind, you aren’t included. The actual numbers are always higher. In this case, it’s important to remember, to make the effort to see, that this means individuals and families are hungry and have nothing or not enough to eat.

At Take Part, an Op-Ed piece:

Congressman Jim McGovern Calls on President to End Hunger

Congressman says we need presidential leadership on food insecurity.

Hunger isn’t a new concept and it isn’t a new problem. We’ve been fighting hunger for a long time and, while we’ve made significant strides in recent decades, there is no end to this problem in sight.

We know that hunger transcends age, race, and gender. In the most difficult economic times, like the recession we’re still slowly recovering from today, even the middle class is not immune from hunger.

The face of hunger today isn’t the one we’re used to seeing. … They don’t think of an overweight or obese neighbor; they don’t think of a chronically ill senior citizen; they don’t think of an underachieving student in their neighborhood school.

But those are the faces of hunger in the 21st century. People are grappling with food insecurity all around us.

McGovern writes that there are “more than 50 million people in the United States, including nearly 17 million children, live in families that struggle to put food on the table.” That means forced choices, such as between paying the rent or buying groceries. And it means “Low-income families are forced into a diet of low-cost, high-calorie, nutrient-deficient foods.”

It isn’t that we don’t have the “resources and knowledge” to address hunger in the USA, McGovern argues. (emphasis added)

Yet the problem persists and even grows, and that’s simply due to a lack of political will. Hunger is, in the end, a political condition.

That’s why I have called for a White House Conference on Food and Nutrition. It’s simple: We need the President to seize this issue. We need the President to stand up and say this is a national priority, one that we will take on sooner rather than later.

I’m grateful for the work the First Lady has done on nutrition and healthy eating. … But we do a disservice to that effort if we don’t address food insecurity at the same time.

The politics of hunger. The politics of poverty. The politics of un- and under-employment. You can add more. All are rather easily avoided or ignored. At this political moment, they’re buried beneath the politics of the contrived “fiscal cliff.” Once this latest DC crisis is addressed, it’s a fairly safe bet one or more “national priorities” will surface, or re-surface, and hunger in the USA will remain a peripheral concern for many (who, of course, are not among the hungry; or unemployed; or without access to regular health care; etc.).

(Rep. Jim McGovern at a Farmers Market event via Jim McGovern FB)