The New York Times headline shouts: “Hunger in U.S. at a 14-Year High.”
President Obama says: “hunger rose significantly last year.” But, researchers for a Department of Agriculture report will only say that people are experiencing “food insecurity” or even “very low food security.” This latter terminology is politically motivated doublespeak.
So why is the Department of Agriculture using the term “food insecurity” and not “hunger?” The politically motivated language betrays the inability of those who use it to truly “walk in the shoes” of the hungry. The political banter over the use of “hunger” highlights the difficulties that some are experiencing in this economic downturn–and the difficulties that some are having fully acknowledging this fact. To fully “walk in another’s shoes,” you have to realize that your own experiences may not be enough to help you understand what someone else is going through. To fully see through their eyes, you must fully empathize with the hardship of others. This would cause you to use language that actually describes their plight.
The debate about the word “hunger” has been around for a long time. In the Reagan years officials “denied there was hunger in the United States.” Denying hunger in the United States seems quite strange given that millions were considered to have “food insecurity” during his administration.
The definition of “food insecurity” is a household that is experiencing hunger, and/or has fears of starvation. The Department of Agriculture did a survey, asking if people had experienced any of the symptoms of “food insecurity”, such as “skipping meals, feeling hunger pangs, or having worries about getting enough food.” According to the survey, about 49 million families have “food insecurity” in the United States. Right now one of the greatest concerns is that 506,000 children are being faced with the problem of ” food insecurity” or “very low food security.”
It is quite interesting, that the New York Times in its headline used the word “hunger” instead of the more euphemistic “food insecurity.” President Obama has shown no hesitance to use the word “hunger” either. Obviously, the New York Times did a lot of research about the impact of the word, before the article was released to the public. Since The Times felt comfortable using the word, shouldn’t the rest of the world? Also, President Obama and his speechwriters’ use of the word “hunger” fully suggests that they, the writers and the President, have a larger capacity for walking in the shoes of someone who does not have enough the eat than do the authors of the Department of Agriculture report. The Department seems to be stuck using politically motivated doublespeak.
The Political battle over of the use of the words “hunger” or “food insecurity” highlights the difficulties some have entirely empathizing with those less fortunate than themselves. This battle is a clear example of the ability (or lack thereof) to walk in another’s shoes. So, the main question is, is it “hunger” or “food insecurity”?