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Hunger/obesity baffling combination

The South has the perplexing distinction of having both a high percentage of obese adults and a high percentage of chronically hungry adults, according to two studies released in 2009.

Released in July 2009, a report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that Mississippi has the highest rate of adult obesity, 32.5 percent, followed by Alabama, West Virginia and Tennessee. Across the United States, nearly one-third of Americans are considered overweight or obese.

A second study, a USDA phone survey of 44,000 households released in November, found that “more than two-thirds of people with very low food security — which is the politically correct term for chronic hunger — said they went hungry from time to time, and 27 percent of these adults said they didn’t eat at all some days,” wrote Tony Pugh with McClatchy Newspapers, in an article on the survey. The survey also said Mississippi had the highest level of chronic hunger, at 17.4 percent.

It’s baffling to think that both hunger and obesity can be major issues in America, especially hunger, with USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program assisting in food purchases for 35 million Americans. Yet, the hunger survey implies that 49 million Americans “will not be able to celebrate Thanksgiving in a way they ought to be able to celebrate,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack.

With these numbers, and with one of the worst crop production seasons in Mid-South history in the rear-view mirror, being thankful this holiday season requires more effort than usual. But I’ll give it a go.

We should be thankful that 85.4 percent of American households are food secure, meaning they have access to plenty of affordable, healthy food. Few other countries can count such blessings.

We should be thankful for the thousands of miles between America and Jacques Diouf, the director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization, who I believe politicized world hunger recently with his 24-hour hunger strike.

He told reporters, “I hope that through these gestures, we will raise awareness, and build pressure from public opinion to ensure that all those who can change this situation are able to do so.”

He went on to suggest that everyone in the world go on a hunger strike for one day “to show solidarity.”

Quite a number of people who know Diouf called his hunger strike more of a publicity stunt than an act of genuine compassion, and I tend to agree. Going without food for one day has as much to do with chronic hunger as eating a Twinkie does with being obese. Not even close.

And finally, we should be thankful for our nation’s farmers, who produce plenty of food for not only its citizens, but for many citizens of the world. It just isn’t always distributed evenly.

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