All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America

By: Joel Berg

With biting wit and the passion of a lifelong activist, Joel Berg has his eye on the growing number of people who are forced to wait on lines at food pantries across the nation-the modern breadline. All You Can Eat reveals that hunger is a problem as American as apple pie, and shows what it is like when your income is not enough to cover rising housing and living costs and put food on the table.

Berg takes to task politicians who remain inactive; the media, which ignores hunger except during holidays and hurricanes; and the food industry, which makes fattening, artery-clogging fast food more accessible to the nation’s poor than healthy fare. He even chides organic food gurus such as Michael Pollan and Alice Waters for saying that the recent increase in food costs is a positive development, an assertion Berg deems to be class biased.

He challenges the President and Congress to make hunger eradication a top priority - and offers them a simple and affordable plan to end it for good. A spirited call to action, All You Can Eat shows how practical solutions for hungry Americans will ultimately benefit America’s economy and all of its citizens.



Whether he is reasoning why the word hunger is better and more to-the-point than the government’s term food insecure, pillorying hunger surveys that don’t count the homeless or demonstrating how even well-meaning social services contribute to the problem, Berg is a passionate and articulate advocate. This book provides a range of practical solutions.
— Publisher's Week
Berg can be a bit of a policy wonk, but his well-considered proposals and optimism are refreshing. America just elected a president with more than passing familiarity with food stamps and poor communities. Here’s hoping he can address the issue with Berg’s balance of rationality and passion.
— Patrick Sisson,
If there’s anyone in America who knows more about the politics of hunger than Joel Berg, they’re well hidden…Though dense with useful statistics, Berg’s trademark good-natured snarkiness makes this an eminently readable book that lays out the dimensions of the growing hunger epidemic, and what can be done about it…Any book that includes a section called “Here It Is: The Plan to End Domestic Hunger” deserves points for chutzpah.
— Neil deMause, City Limits Weekly (New York City)
Berg is prone to saying things like, “We are a country that’s giving nearly a trillion dollars to Wall Street. How about a few bucks to keep people from being hungry?” It’s pure Berg: pointed and up-to-the-moment, with a hint of lefty anger that makes him the darling of hunger fighters everywhere…Berg makes it clear that he wants one thing: to end hunger in America. Really.
— Alfred Lubrano, Philadelphia Inquirer
Seeing Joel Berg speak in person is like watching the History Channel, C-Span, and Comedy Central all at once.
— Greg Sims, SE Field Organizer, Bread for the World (Atlanta, GA)
Berg’s book, All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?, is a remarkably readable political history of hunger in 20th-century America and an impassioned, opinionated proposal for how to end it.
— Fiona Morgan, Independent Weekly (Durham, NC)
Joel Berg packs all his years of thinking and working into a powerful series of essays that is guaranteed to challenge your perceptions about the history of hunger and poverty, while also providing 21st century solutions. Joel is, flat out, one of the boldest thinkers in the fight, and All You Can Eat will prove it.
— Robert Egger, President and Founder of DC Central Kitchen and author of “Begging for Change”
Hunger is a national disgrace in America, and Joel Berg has in a straightforward and provocative way given all of us a framework to deal with it.
— Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
To say that Berg has made hunger his obsession is an insult to obsessiveness.
— Neil deMause, Metro New York “Metroblog: My View” (NYC)
I have read All You Can Eat and in my view it is one of the most important and insightful books on poverty and hunger in America since Michael Harrington’s landmark work, The Other America, which was published in 1962 and often credited with helping to provide part of the intellectual underpinnings for Medicaid, Medicare, and expanded federal nutrition programs…Joel Berg does not shy away from facing the most controversial issues facing our society today, so you may not agree with all of his conclusions, but his ideas are always thought-provoking and creative.
— Lee Powell, Executive Director, Mississippi Delta Caucus
All You Can Eat mixes compelling personal stories, startling statistics, and flashes of humor to reveal a paradox: The richest nation in the history of the world has millions and millions of people who go hungry. Dispelling popular myths - the claim that obesity and hunger cannot co-exist, or the belief that hunger can be solved through more charity - Berg makes the powerful case that Americans have both a moral imperative and a collective self-interest to end hunger.
— Dr. J. Larry Brown, Harvard School of Public Health
We have to do everything we can at every level of government to eliminate hunger in New York City. Joel Berg, who truly understands the matrix between government and citizens for whom they’re supposed to serve, tackles this invisible crisis head-on. All You Can Eat is a powerful, provocative must-read that offers commonsense solutions.
— Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Co-Chair, U.S. House of Representatives Middle-Class Caucus
Joel Berg unmasks the invisible crisis of hunger in his well-researched book that shows hunger has been a growing crisis that threatens to get even worse. This book is a must-read for policy makers and anyone interested in the well-being of tens of millions of Americans.
— Dale Maharidge, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University
The thought-provoking investigation delves into the political and economic impact of food insecurity, including what causes it and how we can realistically eradicate it…Fortunately, Berg is adept at balancing facts with reflection, and humor with the seriousness of such a widespread concern among both the poor and middle classes in cities, small towns and rural communities.
— Natalie Hope McDonald, Philadelphia City Paper
Hunger is a political condition. We have the resources to end it in our lifetimes; what we need is the political will. That’s where Joel Berg’s book comes in. By shining a light on this crisis and offering concrete solutions, he has made an enormous contribution.
— Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chair, U.S. House of Representatives Hunger Caucus
Drawing on his experience in public policy as well as social activism, Joel Berg offers a radically practical plan to end hunger as we know it in America.
— Will Marshall, President and Founder, Progressive Policy Institute
Hunger is a major, and often unseen, problem throughout America. Given our current economic crisis, our nation must place a greater focus on creating real, deliverable solutions to get help into the hands of those who need it most. Joel Berg has dedicated his life’s work to this important issue, and All You Can Eat is a smart, telling wake-up call that we can and must do more.
— NYC Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio
Joel Berg’s perseverance and steadfastness in the struggle to end hunger are impeccable.
— Lynn Brantley, President and CEO, Capital Area Food Bank (Washington, DC)
Joel Berg is a hero in the fight against hunger. His passionate, smart, and tenacious advocacy for those in need is inspiring. Joel has changed lives and continues to make a difference everyday.
— Former NYC Councilmember, Eric Gioia, former Oversight and Investigations Committee Chair
A clever and disarming book, All You Can Eat…draws attention to America’s most unconscionable problem: hunger.
— The Villager (New York City)
His excellent, if statistic-heavy, analysis of 50 years of domestic food policies, All You Can Eat, slams the demonization of the poor as malingerers and lambastes the racism and sexism that underscore this media-reinforced stereotype.
— Eleanor J. Bader, L Magazine (New York City)
Whether the country is facing booming or declining economic times, we should not have to open our newspapers and read about families, especially children, going to bed hungry. Joel’s book has started the dialogue in addressing this very urgent issue. Let’s hope that this book and his ideas will be the cornerstone to action – alleviating a family’s trouble of whether or not they are going to eat.
— Former NYC Councilmember, David Weprin, former Finance Committee Chair
Xavier Mission is thrilled to host the book launch for Joel Berg’s All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America? Emergency food programs are fast realizing that providing food is not going to solve the problem; rather, it is engaging in advocacy on issues concerning hungry Americans – entitlement benefits, a living wage, affordable housing and access to equitable education and job training – and holding the government accountable for its role in finding and implementing a solution that are really going to make the difference in whether or not America can feed its own citizens.
— Cassandra L. Agredo, Director of St. Francis Xavier Mission (NYC)
…Berg says that ending hunger is a long-term investment. In his book, Berg offers the President a commonsense and affordable blueprint to achieve his goal.
— Albor Ruiz, The New York Daily News
Berg serves up multifaceted solutions to ending hunger. But his main emphasis centers on having a president be as committed to ending hunger as John F. Kennedy was to putting a man on the moon. Berg calls for bold action to reinvent the existing federal food-related programs into one larger, more efficient entity. The solution, he insists, is as imperative as it is attainable.
— Adam Bell, The Charlotte Observer (North Carolina)
Joel Berg’s book is an important contribution to the fight against hunger. For anyone who works on this issue, or cares about the problem of hunger and poverty in America, Mr. Berg has some provocative things to say. Mr. Berg has experience both in government and the nonprofit sector, and he has the rare ability to learn lessons from each.
— Tom Freedman, President, Freedman Consulting, LLC and former Senior Advisor to President Bill Clinton
Berg’s faith in the state is ironclad…For him, hunger is a major problem that could be decisively solved if the federal government showed political will.
— Eleanor Bader, The Brooklyn Rail (New York City)
All You Can Eat has been an invaluable teaching tool, giving my students a concrete background on the issue while sparking discussion on Berg’s ideas on how to solve the problem.
— Elizabeth Vukovic Gartlan, RD, former Adjunct Professor of Community Nutrition (New York City)
Just wanted to tell you that we are 3 weeks into the semester here at the University of Rhode Island and my students in my Hunger Studies class are enjoying your book. I am using it as the primary ‘text’ for the class with some additional readings each week.
— Kathleen Gorman, PhD, Director, Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America, University of Rhode Island