Stossel: How did all these ‘hungry’ people get so fat?

by John Stossel, for the Daily Caller

President Joe Biden says 24 million Americans “suffer from food insecurity!”

News anchors were shocked that there is “food insecurity in the richest country in the world!” ABC hosts turned “insecurity” into “hunger.”

But in my new video, Rachel Sheffield, who researches welfare policy at the Heritage Foundation, explains, “Food insecurity is not the same thing as hunger. It just means that they had to rely on cheaper foods, store-brand alternatives … or reduce variety.” (RELATED: JOHN STOSSEL: Rand Paul Was Right)

Really? The alarm about “food insecurity” is based on that? Well, yes. Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in its fine print, admits that “for most food-insecure households, the inadequacies were in the form of reduced quality and variety of food rather than insufficient quantity.”

“They always want to create a crisis,” I say to Sheffield.

“Government programs want to keep themselves going,” she replies.

She’s talking about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the Women, Infants and Children program; the National School Lunch Program and the other constantly growing handouts that make up America’s welfare system.

The biggest effect of these handouts is to harm the people they want to help. They harm people by making them dependent on government.

Before government’s War on Poverty began, Americans were steadily lifting themselves out of poverty. Year after year, the number of people living below the poverty line dropped.

That natural progress wasn’t good enough for us.

We (I include myself because I believed it, too) who wanted to reduce poverty declared “War on Poverty.” Welfare checks poured out. The poverty rate continued to drop for seven years. But then progress stopped.

What happened? Why did progress stop?

Because handouts taught people to be dependent.

Welfare payments did something remarkable. They created a new class of dependent people — a nearly permanent “underclass,” where generation after generation lives in poverty.

Today, government does things to perpetuate that, like claiming millions of Americans are “food insecure.” Charities raise money using the same language.

But the opposite is true.

“Americans consume too many calories,” says Sheffield. “Food insecure” adults are more likely to be obese.

When that became obvious, activists promoted a new myth: Poor people are overweight because they live in “food deserts,” neighborhoods where healthy foods are much less available. Michelle Obama talked about that a lot. She claimed some poor people had to take three busses to buy healthy food.


When government officials first labeled “food deserts,’ they deviously ignored small stores, only counting stores with more than $2 million in sales. It’s true that one “food desert” Obama visited didn’t have a supermarket. But it had multiple smaller businesses selling fruits and vegetables. Government officials just didn’t count them.

Now, the media claim college students are food insecure.

But most college goers gain weight at school! At school!

It’s bizarre that when obesity is the bigger problem, government hypes food insecurity. But of course, “that creates the rationale for expanding food assistance programs, expanding the welfare system,” explains Sheffield.

Expanding welfare seems to be the government’s goal. “We’ve spent more on the War on Poverty than all the military wars combined in the United States without any success,” says Sheffield.

Really? More than all our wars combined? Well, yes. We’ve spent $23 trillion on the War on Poverty. So far.

“Actually,” says Sheffield, “it’s been a success in one way. It increases dependence on the federal government.” That’s what bureaucrats consider success.

The handouts are good for the people who dole out the money. They’re good for politicians who get to look like “good guys.” (RELATED: SUZANNE DOWNING: Generation Blubber — Good Times Forge Weak Men)

But they’re bad for poor people.

Before government handouts began, private charities helped people escape poverty. They encouraged people to learn how to take care of themselves. Work gradually lifted people out of poverty. “Work also has a lot of other benefits,” Sheffield points out. “It builds a greater sense of community, gives people access to resources and friend networks that help them improve in their lives.”

Encouraging self-sufficiency is so much better than what government does.

Every Tuesday at, Stossel posts a new video about the battle between government and freedom. He is the author of “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media.”

John Stossel | Daily Caller


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Categories: Commentary

11 replies »

  1. ‘Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.’

    What’s so complicated about this concept that our legislators can’t understand it?

    Answer: They don’t want to understand the concept. They’re crooks and thieves skimming their livelihoods from the ‘redistribution of income’ racket. It’s no different from an organized crime ‘protection racket’. If anyone should be prosecuted under RICO statutes, it should be our legislators.

    • ‘Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. Give a man someone else’s fish, and you’ve created a progressive, liberal, democrat…

  2. I do extensive community work on my own ticket. I see that many people are overlooked and disenfranchised. I’m one of them.
    Nevertheless, I really wonder why so many people are said to be hungry when there is an extensive food stamp program.

    • Everyone has some level of economic resources, whether earned or through public or private charity. Some people just have different priorities on how they allocate their resources. Putting a roof over one’s head is expensive. When that expense is provided or heavily subsidized, that frees up a lot of economic resources for other things that may not be beneficial to one’s self or to society as a whole. When someone has an addiction, giving them free housing frees up their money for purchasing substances, and combining that with the privacy of a hotel room is a death sentence. If an addict is in a communal shelter, at least there is likely to be someone around to notice and intervene medically. The privacy of hotel rooms accounts for a significant count in the overdose death toll. That is a fact that housing “advocates” like Brenda Siegal are in denial of.

  3. The fact that Stossel can’t fathom that a college kid might be poor and hungry really reinforced for me that to anyone over 70, your idea of a college student is a rich, entitled, liberal, transgender that took your daughter’s spot on the field hockey team and your son’s spot at Goldman Sachs. It’d be more productive if he stayed in his lane and worried about an HOA or nursing home.

    Before government handouts began, private charities helped people escape poverty. They encouraged people to learn how to take care of themselves.


    Took care of them like Hoovervilles and miles long soup lines during the Great Depression? John Stossel made his name with the groundbreaking discovery that professional wrestling isn’t real. I don’t know what I believe less: that he is still alive, publishing clickbait, or that this was published as an authentic thought piece.

  4. Food in the US is mostly bad for you and not nutritious. You can’t afford to purchase nutritious food on public a limited budget. It takes a lot of time, education, effort, and money to learn to shop for good food (low sugar and little to no processing) and prepare it yourself in a way that feeds you without making you fat.

    • The challenge to find products without corn syrup or bioengineered ingredients is near impossible. Notice products from other countries simply have “sugar” listed as the sweetner. The amount of canola oil and cheap saturated fats is also a health killer. Even diet products are full of sodium or chemically engineered sweetner. Back to basics – cook from scratch and swear off the processed junk of all kinds. I know people complain they don’t have time to cook – if your life and health depends on it, I think it is worth making the time.

  5. I had to get food assistance this past 10 months due to inflation and fuel prices… I started reading the labels on the food — from China, the Ukraine — and found no information at all on them, knowing these countries have trade agreements AND no oversight on what goes into their consumables (sort of like dog and cat food).

    John Kirakiou wrote an article I cannot copy and paste here, in Consortium News on Sept. 18, entitled ANIMAL GRADE PRISON FOOD INDICTS SOCIETY — noting that the food inmates get makes them sick. I had an episode soon after consuming food bank food/FDA food that is exactly as described in the article. The food banks get the same food as prisons… because, you know… poor people don’t deserve to know what is in its food, or where it comes from.

    I mean, if you were supplying Americans and an avowed enemy of our country, what would YOU put in the food???

    …crickets chirping…

  6. This is a complex issue.The majority of Americans eat garbage no matter what their income level. Most of what’s sold in our grocery stores is pretty unhealthy and processed foods. Eating healthy takes both knowledge and effort as well as an ability to cook. So many have been raised on processed food loaded with sugar, carbs, the unhealthy fats etc. In general lower income people don’t have the educational background to make better food choices and often lack cooking skills. And much on offer at food pantries is garbage. I used to volunteer at one and was astounded by how unhealthy most of the food on offer was as well as our clients addiction to unhealthy food and inability or unwillingness to cook.

  7. As Stossel opines, dependency on govt is the result as well as the objective for many elected officials and bureaucrats in charge. In days of yore, charity came locally and you saw your benefactors at church and at the corner store and if you were able-bodied, they saw you if you failed to make an effort at supporting yourself. You would feel some sense of gratitude and obligation toward your benefactors. Now the charity comes from far-away bureaucracies in the form of a plastic card that gets recharged with cash on the first of the month, as a means of avoiding stigma. An able-bodied person living on EBT cards feels no sense of gratitude toward their neighbors and has no motivation to contribute to society. Stigma always was a powerful motivator. Now people feel entitlement based on perceived and popularly accepted victimhoods and vote for those who will give them the most free stuff. It’s not that complicated, and it’s not hard to reverse if we had the political will.
    As far as “food deserts”, the biggest reason that retailers of quality foods leave an area is that they are shoplifted into the red. When we fail to enforce the laws against shoplifting, that is the result.