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American Hunger: Social Ideology and the Fight Against Food Insecurity

Aurora Bissiri


Food insecurity affects millions of people annually in the United States, a strange phenomenon in one of the world’s wealthiest and most developed nations. In this paper, I look to explain the continued experience of food insecurity(FI) among American children and families as a consequence of American social ideology. As celebrated and uniquely American as bootstrapping, individualism, and personal responsibility are, such ideas could be playing a role in perpetuating the social and health challenges of food insecurity. First, I examine how the negative health effects of food insecurity are intertwined with and exacerbated by societal ideas of personal responsibility and individualism. Then I look to explain how American social ideology has evolved alongside/shaped food aid policy to determine the historical political manifestations of such ideology. Lastly, I examine how much of the literature on remedying rates of food insecurity point to policy changes that directly challenge many main tenets of American ideology surrounding individual responsibility, suggesting that widespread systematic change in both policy and therefore social thinking must take place to effectively ameliorate food insecurity and its health consequences.

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