Even as America wastes tons of food, people in 12 million households worry about getting enough to eat, a government study estimates. And that doesn’t count the homeless.
“That is an appalling figure, and it must energize us as a nation to do more,” Vice President Al Gore said Monday at the first national summit on how to recover more of the food that is discarded. “We already have enough food in America to feed everyone.”
The Department of Agriculture study of the nation’s eating patterns in 1995 found that about 12 percent of the 100 million households either experienced some hunger or had poor diets because they couldn’t afford better food.
Of that number, about 800,000 households were found to be suffering from severe hunger from time to time during the year. Those homes included 215,000 children under age 6.
Gore and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman released the study to underscore a new initiative aimed at increasing the food recovered from restaurants, cafeterias, farm fields and food processing plants by 33 percent by 2000.
The Agriculture Department has estimated that 96 billion pounds of food goes to waste each year, more than a quarter of the food produced in America. If the amount recovered - or gleaned - were raised by one-third, it would be enough to feed roughly 450,000 people a day for a year.
Joining Glickman and Gore at the summit were the folk group Peter, Paul & Mary, who performed “This Land Is Your Land” and have taped a public-service TV spot urging people and businesses to help recover more food.