Hunger affects costs all in U.S. $542 each

Oct. 6, 2011 at 12:31 AM
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WALTHAM, Mass., Oct. 6 (UPI) -- It cost every U.S. citizen $542 in 2010, or a total of $167.5 billion, for the far-reaching consequences of hunger in the nation, researchers calculated.

Donald Shepard, Timothy Martin, John Orwat of Brandeis University and Larry Brown, then on the faculty at of the Harvard School of Public Health said they calculated the direct and indirect cost of adverse health, education and economic productivity outcomes associated with hunger.

The study, which examined the recession's impact on hunger and the societal costs to the United States for each of the 50 states in 2007 and 2010, provided the first estimate of how much hunger contributes to the cost of special education -- at least $6.4 billion in 2010, the researchers said.

Hunger is not readily seen in America as it was during the Great Depression. Newscasts do not show small American children with distended bellies nor lines of thin, frail people at soup kitchens because of the federal nutrition assistance program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, the researchers said.

However, many U.S. families still make tough choices between a meal and paying for other basic necessities such as medical bills, heat, power, the mortgage or rent.

U.S. hunger costs at least $167.5 billion due to the combination of lost economic productivity per year, more expensive public education because of the rising costs of poor education outcomes, avoidable healthcare costs and the cost of charity to keep families fed, the study said.

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