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Hunger: A crime of capitalism

Published Dec 12, 2011 9:25 PM

Supermarket shelves are abundantly stocked with everything from soup to nuts. Colorful produce in reds, yellows and greens is plentiful and inviting.

It is a myth that food scarcity exists here. There is enough food grown and produced in this country to feed everyone.

Yet 16 million children and 33 million adults frequently go to bed hungry. This represents 14.5 percent of U.S. households. It is the situation even though nearly 46 million people —one-half of them children —receive food stamps. These benefits are woefully inadequate.

This phenomenon exists in the prosperous United States, where the top 1 percent is getting richer. As the income gap grows, the working class is getting poorer.

The ongoing capitalist economic crisis has affected the health and well-being of millions. As workers have been laid off, losing jobs and often homes, it’s harder for them to purchase enough food for their families. Many sacrifice their own sustenance so that their children can eat.

Today, 21 million low-income children receive subsidized school lunches, many for the first time, as their parents’situations have grown more dire in every state. In big cities such as Dallas, Newark and Chicago, 85 percent of students are eligible for subsidized lunches.

Why, despite the availability of food, are so many people going without proper nourishment?

A confluence of factors comes into play, making it hard for many parents to put food on the table. First, food prices are high and always increasing. Second, incomes have decreased during the recession, with 25 million to 30 million people now unemployed or underemployed. Meanwhile, a half of U.S. workers — 75 million — are annually paid $26,000 or less. National, gender and age discrimination affect the incomes of women, people of color and youth. As a result, a third of African-American and Latino/a families lack the resources to purchase sufficient food. Additionally, healthier food items are often pricier, an issue for low-income families.

At the crux of this crisis is something that liberal think tanks and food research centers won’t say: Capitalist food production is to blame. Under capitalism, food is a commodity. It is produced to garner profits.

Corporate ownership of the multibillion-dollar food industry puts affordable, healthy food out of the reach of many low-income families. Children can go hungry or be malnourished as far as the capitalists are concerned. If workers don’t have the money to buy food, too bad.

That governmental food programs exist at all is a result of mass struggles. They are not a given. In fact, they face constant attack by rapacious right-wingers in Congress —many of them millionaires themselves —who represent the superrich and seek to dismantle essential social programs.

The Senate and House allot trillions of dollars to Wall Street banks. They grant huge subsidies to transnational agribusinesses like Cargill. The Pentagon just has to ask, and their weapons and wars will be funded, no matter the cost.

Yet, meeting human needs —even for food, the most essential ingredient for sustaining life —is not intrinsic to capitalism, not here, not abroad. Imperialism has resulted in vast, global impoverishment, with a billion people, including children, hungry and/or malnourished worldwide.

Under capitalism, life’s necessities are not guaranteed. Food is not considered a right. If this were a compassionate society, everyone would be assured a plentiful, healthy diet. However, capitalism is not such a system.

Workers World Party insists that every human being has the right to ample, nutritious food. As part of our struggle history, our organization has launched mass campaigns calling for rollbacks in food prices and demanding the government distribute “surplus”food to the hungry.

Food is a right!

Feed the people, not the Pentagon!

Fund nutrition programs, not Wall Street!