Myths and Facts about Poverty and Hunger

Updated: Jun 11

There are many myths and misconceptions about poverty and hunger that influence how people view these issues and the people affected by them. In order to fight the stigma and stereotypes surrounding poverty and hunger, here are some facts confronting the common myths.

MYTH: Poverty only exists in third-world countries, and there is only a hunger crisis in other parts of the world, not America.

FACT: The unfortunate reality is that poverty and hunger can be found here in America. In 2019, over 34 million Americans lived in poverty (10.5%). This is down from 4.2 million Americans living in poverty in 2018 (11.8%). However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, these numbers have probably gone back up in 2020. Poverty and food insecurity are inextricably linked. 35 million people face hunger in the United States. It can be difficult to put food on the table when your budget is spent on rent, utilities, medication, and other unexpected expenses.

MYTH: Hunger is most frequently found in cities.

FACT: While hunger is prevalent everywhere, hunger is especially common in rural areas, particularly in farming communities that grow America’s crops. According to Feeding America, 79% of the counties with the highest hunger rates in America are in rural areas. Attributes of rural living, such as limited access to transportation, Internet, jobs, and education, can make it more difficult to earn a living wage. Many rural families have to decide between paying for utilities such as heat or for food and groceries. Rural areas also tend to be food deserts, with the closest grocery store being half an hour away.

MYTH: People who face hunger are typically homeless and unemployed. People living in poverty are lazy and taking advantage of the system.

FACT: According to a study, among the 46.2 million people living below the poverty line in 2010, more than 10.5 million were considered working poor, which means they lived in poverty despite working for 27 weeks or more during the year. This statistic highlights the disparity of income wages and the standard of living across America. Many households we serve are not homeless and have at least one working adult. Despite having a place to call home and a job (or multiple jobs), many people struggle to put food on the table due to challenges such as rising unemployment rates, stagnant wages, and unexpected emergencies.

MYTH: There is nothing I can do to help others overcome challenges such as hunger.

FACT: While policy is necessary in ending poverty, nonprofits and service agencies are critical in alleviating the effects of hunger, and your individual actions and contributions add up to make a significant impact. There are many ways you can help Second Harvest Food Bank fight hunger in our community. You can always make a donation to our food bank, but from April 22-29, we are also hosting our Empty Bowls virtual fundraiser! You can find out more information here. Every $1 we raise results in 5 meals, so we are able to stretch your dollar and make your donations go further. If you don’t have the financial means to donate, that is okay as well! We are welcoming back volunteers to assist with our drive-thru distributions, so you can also learn more about how you can get involved. Whether you support the food bank through donations or your time, or even if you are just spreading the word about our programs so that your neighbors are able to receive food, there are many things you can do to help us feed our community.

By debunking these myths, we can help raise awareness around the issue of hunger and poverty. Another way you can help us raise awareness is by sharing your story. Storytelling is a powerful tool for advocacy because it helps raise awareness of hunger in our community. If you would like to be an advocate, tell us your story!

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