A study by the Urban Institute, a research organization in Washington, found that about two million elderly Americans had come to deal with at least one of two contemporary dilemmas: whether to pay for rent or to buy food, or, whether to pay for medicine or buy food.
On a larger scale, making reference to the nation's entire population, Doug O'Brien, director of public policy and research at Second Harvest states: "We are finding a great deal of pain and anxiety and some instances of malnutrition. Hunger is disguised in this country. It's not like in North Korea where people have to eat grass, or in East Africa, where they just waste away. It's not life-threatening in most cases. But it is a serious, insidious problem that affects many million Americans. We have a hunger problem. And other Western industrialized nations do not have a hunger problem. And that is just not acceptable when we have such abundance."
Officials at Second Harvest, the nation's largest non-profit clearinghouse for donations to soup kitchens and food pantries in the United States, presented a recent comprehensive survey that showed that over the course of a year, more than 21 million people sought emergency food assistance through the Second Harvest network. The 21 million figure refers to separate individuals, not the total number of emergency meals served. It is estimated that millions of other Americans do not have sufficient funds to pay for an adequate diet.