Report: Hunger fell in 2005 after 6 years of steady increase

Wednesday, November 15th 2006, 12:14 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The number of people struggling with hunger in the United States fell in 2005, the first such decline in six years, the Agriculture Department said Wednesday.

Last year, 35 million people suffered food insecurity, meaning they didn't have enough money or resources to get food. The number was 38 million in 2004.

The department had waited until after Election Day to issue the annual report, prompting accusations from Democrats that the Bush administration was playing politics with hunger.

Despite the positive news, the report is still drawing criticism, this time because analysts decided not to use the word ``hunger'' to describe how hungry people are.

``Changing the term and watering it down doesn't change the fact that 35 million Americans are in a constant struggle to put enough food on the table and to ward off hunger,'' said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group.

``And that extraordinary number in this wealthy country living in a period of sustained economic growth is appalling, no matter what you call it,'' Weill said.

The report found:

_ There were more people with very low food security _ those who are worst off. The number was 10.8 million, up from 10.7 million in 2004.

_ There were 24 million people with low food security, down from 27.5 million in 2004.

In the report, the terms ``low food security'' and ``very low food security'' replace the old descriptions of ``food insecurity without hunger'' and ``food insecurity with hunger.'' The change was recommended by the National Academies, which advise the government on science and medical issues.

Among the states, Hawaii saw the biggest drop in the number of hungry people, from 12.9 percent in 1998 to 7.8 percent in 2005. South Carolina saw the biggest increase, from 11 percent in 1998 to 15.5 percent in 2005.

The hunger report is based on Census Bureau data on poverty, which stopped climbing in 2005.