Mark Nord Gives ‘Security’ a New Definition

Mark Nord works over at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and he needs to be put out to pasture on the minimum wage for a while. Mark says ‘hunger’
isn’t a scientifically accurate term. This Republican—about to become
Democratic—government seems to have trouble with basic definitions. And
it’s a bi-partisan blind-spot; Bill Clinton with the definition of ‘is’ and George Bush with what ‘torture’ really means.

Mark Nord works over at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and he needs to be put out to pasture on the minimum wage for a while. Mark says ‘hunger’
isn’t a scientifically accurate term. This Republican—about to become
Democratic—government seems to have trouble with basic definitions. And
it’s a bi-partisan blind-spot; Bill Clinton with the definition of ‘is’ and George Bush with what ‘torture’ really means.
Government would be a continuing source of hysterical laughter, if only so many people were not harmed by it.
Getting back to Mark, he’s the ‘lead author’ of a report that
measures Americans’ access to food. The USDA has been doing this for
years and up until this year, they described people without
access to food as being ‘hungry.’ Makes sense. No food in the house,
you get hungry. They didn’t say you were starving, because sometimes
there was food in the house.
It’s not scientifically accurate enough for Mark, but then he’s a
sociologist and sociologists may not see the forest, but they can
by-god define a tree. He describes people without food in the house as
experiencing ‘very low food security.’ Now, does he mean that in the ‘freedom from anxiety or fear’ definition or the ‘measures taken as a precaution against theft or espionage or sabotage etc.’ definition? Which one most accurately measures the pain in the stomach, the lightheadedness, lethargy or difficulty concentrating?
We’re demanding accuracy here. Mark may never have actually been hungry himself, but he sees very low food security as more accurate than hunger. It’s possible, perhaps even probable, that Mark has never put a hungry child to bed. “We don’t have a measure of that condition,” says Mark.
Nord is a sociologist for the enormous federal department that
administers policy for the single biggest agricultural entity in the
world and doesn’t have a measure of hunger. The definition of
‘sociologist’ is ‘a social scientist who studies the institutions and
development of human society.’ Mark must have been home sick the day
they covered hunger within the institutions and development of human
society. Probably had a note from mom.
Elizabeth Williamson reports in today’s Washington Post;

United States has set a goal of reducing the proportion of
food-insecure households to 6 percent or less by 2010, or half the 1995
level, but it is proving difficult. The number of hungriest Americans
has risen over the past five years. Last year, the total share of
food-insecure households stood at 11 percent.

Well, of course it has risen. While you people over at the USDA were chasing food insecurity, people were going hungry.
Hungry or not, the USDA admitted that 35 million Americans ‘could not put food on the table’ at least a part of last year. Possibly that’s not ‘scientific’ enough for Mark. Food on the table
might merely mean that they were eating from chairs in front of the TV.
11 million said they were ‘hungry at times.’ Now, of course if you want
to get ‘scientific’ about it, as Mark insiste, hungry at times could mean the times just before walking into McDonalds for a Big Mac.

Beginning this year (Liz Williamson again), the USDA has determined “very low food security” to be a more scientifically palatable
description for that group. Nice choice of
wording—palatable—‘acceptable to the taste or mind.’ And you thought
George Bush’s ‘condescending conservatism’ wasn’t working.

What is not
acceptable to the taste or mind is letting nit-wits like Mark rearrange
the language of our nation in such a way as to marginalize the poor (I
almost slipped and wrote economically disadvantaged). Poor, poverty, hunger, thirst, abuse, neglect and the ignorance of sociologists
are all useful and descriptive terms that must not be swept under the
table of political correctness. There is damned little that is correct
about American politics at the moment and a large part of that malaise
is due to foggy definition of what everyone knows words to mean.
Eleven million Americans are hungry, unless thirty-five million are.
Split the terminology any way you like, fifty million are without
health care. If people like Mark move on to Health and Human Services,
those fifty million will be ‘experiencing very low health security.’

In assembling its report, the USDA divides Americans into groups with “food security” and those with “food insecurity,” who
cannot always afford to keep food on the table. Under the old lexicon,
that group — 11 percent of American households last year — was
categorized into “food insecurity without hunger,” meaning people who ate, though sometimes not well, and “food insecurity with hunger,” for those who sometimes had no food.

Someone take these people out in the back pasture and shoot them, before they breed and produce more sociologists.
Among Mark’s current projects is ‘measuring and monitoring household food security in the United States.’ What’re we doing here, Mark? Putting locks on the pantry, making sure the fridge isn’t ajar?
I suggest that it’s way past time for field-work, applicable to
Mark’s study. Put him under house-arrest, with one of those
ankle-bracelets to make sure he stays away from the local pizza parlor.
Give him a high-starch, low-protein diet of two meals a day. During
certain periods, reduce him to one meal. Occasionally, to better
understand the plight of 11 to 35 million of his study-subjects, give
him no meals.
Then ask if he’s hungry.
Newspaper commentary;

1 thought on “Mark Nord Gives ‘Security’ a New Definition

  1. Mark Nord is a sociologist so he writes reports in sociological language. Why is that so hard to understand? Look up the word "food insecurity." It has been used at least since the 1880's to quantify the severity of food shortages (famine in India). "Food insecurity" is a more quantifiable term than "hunger". I can be hungry just because I got too busy to eat. Also I may not be hungry today but if I don't have enough disposable income to buy food I may be hungry by the end of the month when my food stamps run out. "Food insecurity" captures that problem, "hunger" does not. Furthermore, "food insecurity" also measures malnutrition – where one can afford to buy food but not the right kinds of food. "Hunger" does not measure that. My belly may be full and I don't feel hungry but I may still die because I am malnourished. The USDA uses the terms "food insecurity" and "very low food insecurity" to measure the severity of hunger and malnutrition in the United States because they were advised to measure it that way by the National Academies of Science. I suppose you know better than they do about how to write scientific reports? And it isn't just the USDA that uses this terminology. So do international agencies involved in hunger and poverty programs. It is standard language for talking about hunger in a quantifiable way. You could look it up and you should have looked it up, as the WP reporters and editors should have also. The report put out by Mark Nord is a scientific report. It was never intended to be a political report on hunger and should not be read that way. The Washington Post was wrong to read it that way and report on it that way. It is also somewhat ironic that you bashed Nord with the figures that he used in his report. The reason you even knew those figures was because of his research. What you are really doing here is attacking the messenger for using the language of his profession. It is also ironic that you attack the USDA. They spend more on food programs such as food stamps than anything or anyone else. Furthermore, they do not have any money to spend on food programs or anything else without authorization from Congress. So if you are unhappy with the number of hungry people in this country, it is ludicrous to attack the USDA, who are both doing something about it and reporting on it – you should be talking to your Congressman. Bashing Mark Nord for reporting in the way he has been trained to do will not do anything to help the situation. And dumbing down scientific reports because reporters and pundits can't be bothered to make themselves scientifically literate will not help the situation either.

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