Causes of Hunger

Many factors contribute to the state of hunger in the United States.  The causes are complex, varied, and extremely interconnected.  Because of this, hunger and poverty are inextricably linked. Not every poor person is hungry, but almost all hungry people are poor. Millions live in hunger and are malnourished because they cannot afford to buy enough food, more nutrient-dense foods or afford the supplies they need to grow their own food.

Hunger should be viewed as a dimension of extreme poverty. It should be considered as the most severe and critical symptom of poverty.  Poverty causes hunger, and hunger, in turn, contributes to poverty. It is a vicious cycle that is quite difficult to break free from, once you are stuck inside.  

Understanding that there are many causes of hunger, we’ve chosen to narrow them down into ten individual causes of poverty.  By identifying these causes of poverty, we believe a clearer picture of how we arrive at hunger in our community is shown.

This understanding allows us to tackle these causes of hunger, through dealing with the causes of poverty.

In Stark County, Ohio.  Poverty and Hunger are very much a reality for large groups within our community. 

StarkFresh was formed as a direct response to these conditions. ABOUT US


When people are living in a state of poverty, they lack the resources to cover their basic needs such as food, water, and shelter.  People in America who live in poverty cannot afford nutritious food for themselves and their families. This causes them to be physically and mentally weaker, resulting in a lesser ability to earn the money that would help them escape poverty and hunger. These effects can be long-lasting, with children who are chronically malnourished often growing up to be adults whose incomes are lower.  In short, the poor are hungry and their hunger traps them in poverty.

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In America, we are blessed with not having to deal with warfare on our home soil, which is what most people think of when they hear conflict.  Even though we don’t directly deal with the effects of warfare, daily conflict and displacement is very much a reality and results in leaving people who are already vulnerable more susceptible to malnutrition.

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In America, hunger is mainly caused by poverty that results from a lack of jobs or because the jobs that are available pay too little to support a family. Hunger rates are higher in areas where the local economy is in a slump.  In Stark County, this has been going on for decades and people cannot find work. Further compounding the issue, people who have been in prison, or have even a simple misdemeanor conviction face wide-scale discrimination that makes it difficult for them to find jobs once they re-enter the job-seeking community. In single-parent families, the parent may not be able to take a job or work enough hours because of the lack of access to affordable or convenient childcare options.

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An unexpected one-time event, usually personal in nature, is the quickest way a person or family is pushed into poverty.  Once this “cycle of poverty”  has been entered, it is extremely difficult to escape.  Hunger plays a tremendous role by being one of the first indicators of being in danger of entering the cycle of poverty.

Some examples of expected life events are:

• The loss of a job or business failure
• A health issue, resulting in high bills or loss of wages
• A death in the family
• Unplanned pregnancy
• Breakup, divorce
• Change in housing, resulting from foreclosure or eviction
• An automotive accident, causing a lack of necessary transportation or loss of income
• Conviction of a crime or incarceration
• Childcare issues, preventing attendance at school or work


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Policy is often not addressed as a cause if hunger.  To admit that policies were put into practice deliberately to create systematic physical and economic barriers to keep people living in poverty is not something that is “comfortable” to confront, or admit.  Many policies and laws, especially those directly targeting people of color, were extremely effective with the damage still being felt daily in the communities most affected.

Some of these policies are:

• Redlining and other mortgage market discrimination
• The “war on drugs”
• Wage disparities and discriminatory hiring practices
• Tax laws favoring tax breaks for home ownership
• Urban Renewal tactics
• Banking regulations designed to reduce loans and other investment opportunities for non-white patrons


Being able to admit that these policies were intentionally, is the first step in seeing what can be done to counter the lingering effects of these discriminatory practices.


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This cause is sometimes tied directly to policy, but it goes much deeper.  In America, infrastructure isn’t just tied to policy, sometimes poor design creates physical barriers to be able to access food.  Without the infrastructure in place to allow someone easy access to all of their core human needs, and also the infrastructure in place to allow them to thrive with these needs met, we continue to have a living situation where people are relying on charity or emergency food pantries for food, regardless of how nutrient-deficient that food is.  The infrastructure in America favors large corporate food interests and penalizes small farmers or processors which directly affects the quality of food available at affordable rates to those living in poverty.


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Knowledge comes in many forms.  The generational knowledge of our ancestors has largely been lost within the sea of commercialization in America.  This includes our food, health and agricultural systems.  We now have entire generations of Americans who don’t understand:

• Where food comes from
• What foods are actually healthy to eat
• How to prepare foods from scratch
• How to grow your own food
• Why buzzwords such as “sell-by-date”, “low-fat”, or “sugar-free” are highly misleading and often times have no bearing on how beneficial or healthy a food is for someone.
• How meat products are produced and the diets those animals are fed
• How large food corporations receive subsidies to supply food of low nutrient density and penalize small and local farmers who are providing organically-grown food.


Lack of knowledge takes many forms and is quite complicated.  Living in a state of hunger  often times does not allow you to be mentally prepared to learn the things you need to know to feed yourself better food. 


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In recent years, new terms have appeared in our lexicon to describe hunger and poor food access.  Terms like food deserts, food swamps, and food insecurity are all used to apply neat, clean definitions to describe food access problems.  The problem with these terms is they don’t fully convey the reason why policies were deliberately put into place and the reasons behind how poor food access came to be in the first place.  Poor food access is not simply solved by dropping a grocery store in an area that doesn’t have one.  It also is not solved by simply giving backpacks full of foods high in sugar and sodium out to those who are hungry.  Poor food access is very much tied to the policies and infrastructures that exist that prevent an easy, comprehensive approach to improving good food access.

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Many groups claim to be “fighting hunger.” Something they are not doing is actually providing food that is nutrient-dense. Instead, the focus is often times the amount of food that has been given out instead of focusing on the amount and type of calories being fed.  In addition to the “junk” food that is being offered to those who are hungriest, commercially available fruits and vegetables today are on average 8-37% less nutrient dense than they were just 60 years ago.  Instead of applauding the ability to provide 4 meals for less than a dollar, we should instead be asking why is it that the food being given away is that inexpensive.  Poor food quality seems cheap when it is consumed, yet the effects of that poor quality shows up in severe health issues later on in life.  The places of highest levels of hunger also are the areas with the highest levels of poverty and the highest levels of serious health disparities.


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High food costs prevent people from accessing better quality food that their bodies need.  Nutrient-dense produce grown organically and meat grown using a nutrient-rich diet are largely unobtainable to those who are living in poverty.  The allure of cheap food that can fill hunger cravings is undeniable, especially when food dollars available to eat are so limited.  However, this “cheap food” is nothing but a myth.  Finding ways for people to access better quality food and increase a healthier food intake is an obtainable goal.  Part of the solution is the ability to grow your own produce.


Click the pathway icon below to learn how we are specifically addressing these causes.