Thursday, February 26, 2009

An on-line photo exhibit on hunger

A news story introduced us to a unique photo website that captures images of hunger in America. The website Witness to Hunger has a gallery of pictures of women who struggle to provide for their families, most of the families live in the Philadelphia. The women are provided with the digital cameras to take their own snapshots of what their like is like.

Witness to Hunger has received some press and we learned of it from this story in the Daily American from Illinois.

‘‘Where is one of my favorite photos?’’ Chilton scans a wall of frames inside an exhibit hall at Drexel University. She stops at one, brushing the glass as if to caress the child herself. ‘‘Let me tell you about this kid.’’

The little girl, 15-16 months old, wears a striped top that swallows her tiny arms. Her nose is runny, her eyes empty.

Hers is not the picture of hunger that Americans are accustomed to seeing. She isn’t emaciated, like those living in squalid conditions in famine-stricken countries, but she is underweight and malnourished, often fed chips and sugary drinks instead of milk and formula.

The very word, hunger, means something different in 2009 in America. It manifests itself in poor diets lacking in fruits and vegetables, in children who are fed fatty, cheap foods like hot-dogs or ramen noodles and may be overweight but also hungry. It shows in a child’s health, and in the everyday hard choices of mothers and fathers: Buy Pampers or formula? Pay the heating bill or fill the fridge?

Even before the economy tanked, some 36 million adults and children struggled with hunger in 2007, including 12 million the government considers to have ‘‘very low food security’’ — meaning they suffered a substantial disruption to their food supply at some point during the year.

The number of Americans receiving food stamps reached an all-time high last year, topping 30 million in September, October and November, even though the maximum benefit for a family of four — $588 — still falls $78 short of the cheapest possible government-established plan to feed a family that size.

President Barack Obama, whose own mother once received food stamps, has pledged to end childhood hunger; the administration’s stimulus package raises food stamp benefits by 14 percent.

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