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The hunger in America's midst

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National Hunger Awareness Day, being observed Thursday by a coalition of anti-hunger organizations, raises the issue of why more Americans are not aware that hunger is a serious problem facing children and families across the United States.

While America doesn't have the kind of starvation that plagues victims of war and famine overseas and makes for dramatic footage on the evening news, the evidence of significant hunger in our midst could not be more pervasive and accessible.

If you live or work in a neighborhood where children go to school, and that covers most of us, free and reduced-price meals from the federal government's school lunch and school breakfast programs are probably being served to some of the program's more than 14 million beneficiaries.

If you live in a town with grocery stores, you are likely to find food stamps being used by some of the more than 10 million households that depend on them to purchase critical sources of nutrition.

If you are like 90 percent of Americans, you live within less than an hour's drive of one of the 185 massive food banks that supply more than 65,000 soup kitchens that feed almost 20 million Americans.

Thirty-four million Americans living below the poverty line is a not a new phenomenon. Indeed it has been the one relentlessly consistent staple of American economic life, resisting the technology boom, fluctuations in the stock market, and even low unemployment rates.

Hunger is not hidden in America. But neither, in a nation of abundance - of natural resources, wealth, and opportunity - is it top of mind for voters, philanthropists, or many citizens.

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