This week, Congress considers new food stamp rules that would allow people to receive more aid.
On some days, Taquana Spicer admits, she skips breakfast and lunch to make sure that her three kids – Nakhema, 11; Isaiah, 7; and Jahsir, 2 – have enough to eat.
Ms. Spicer's bouts of hunger, she says, are tempered by another decision she made: to raise her children in the suburbs rather than in the kind of rundown projects where she grew up.
"It's a sacrifice, a choice. I won't just move anywhere," says Ms. Spicer, who lives in Riverdale, Ga., outside Atlanta. "It's like either do I live out here and juggle my bills, or do I live in the projects and risk their life every day?"
As Spicer's plight indicates, hunger remains a complex problem in America, fraught with issues of personal responsibility and even upward mobility. The issue is getting renewed attention this week as Congress considers new food stamp rules that would allow recipients to make larger income deductions to qualify for more aid. It's prompting debate over who is going hungry, who is not, and what the word means in a country where the poor, on average, weigh more than the rich.
"Being hungry is a subtle, personal, chaotic, unpredictable, but often systematic experience," where welfare policies may provide a meal but don't go far enough to help poor Americans rise above welfare says Amy Glasmeier, director of Penn State's Center for Policy Research on Energy, Environment and Community Well-being in University Park, Pa.
Some 35.5 million Americans are food insecure, or have cupboards that are sometimes bare, according to the US Department of Agriculture's household food security report released in November. Of 115 million US households, 230,000 reported children going hungry at some point almost every month; 115,000 households, or 0.1 percent of all US households, reported that a child had not eaten all day at least once during the year.