In the early 1980s reports of widespread hunger among members of the U.S. population began to appear in the media. Throughout the decade this phenomenon of “hunger in the land of plenty” was continually reported and debated. Hundreds of national, state, and local studies were undertaken by churches, private agencies, and government agencies in an effort to document the existence and extent of hunger in the U.S. The President’s Task Force on Food Assistance studied the problem in 1984, but found no evidence of widespread hunger. In 1985 the Harvard-based Physician Task Force on Hunger in America [Physician Task Force] estimated that 20 million Americans were experiencing hunger while 40 million were at risk of hunger. This lack of agreement with regard to the incidence and prevalence of the problem was argued throughout the 1980s (Brown and Allen 1988). The confusion over the issue is exemplified by statements such as the one in 1988 by then Surgeon General C. Everitt Koop. In his opening letter to The Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Healthy, Koop stated:

“The apparently sizeable numbers of people resorting to the use of soup kitchens and related food facilities, as well as the possible role of poor diet as a contributor to the higher infant mortality rates associated with inadequate income, suggest the need for better monitoring of the nature and extent of the problem and for sustained efforts to correct the underlying causes of diminished health due to inadequate or inappropriate 4diets.” (United States Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 1988, p. iv)