Just in time for Christmas, our great nation has achieved the dream of every Miss America contestant in history.

At last, the United States government has eliminated hunger.

No, not hunger the condition.

Hunger the word.

If you don't believe it, just peruse the report released last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in which Oregon is ranked as one of the worst states in the country (behind only Mississippi) in terms of "food security." More specifically, the USDA found, of the 17 million Americans who are "food insecure" or "very food insecure" because of finances, roughly 200,000 are Oregonians.

There is not a single mention of "hunger" in the report because, beginning this year, the USDA has dumped that rather distasteful word for being "imprecise," and have officially replaced it with the phrase "food insecure."

A household is considered "food secure," they say, when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. And a household is considered "food insecure" when ... well, when its occupants do live in hunger or fear of starvation.

In the name of razor-sharp precision, the USDA has opted to ignore one simple word everyone instantly understands in favor of a hopelessly vague pair of words. Yes, those words may make the idea of hunger more palatable to those who aren't hungry or in fear of starvation (why else would anyone coin such a phrase?), but they're not likely to instill a sense of urgency in anyone who might otherwise step forward and do something about it.

The current hunger picture is actually quite a bit darker than the one painted in the USDA report, which was assembled from data gathered in 2008. Last week, at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the leaders of 27 cities across the nation reported a 26 percent jump in demand for hunger assistance over the past year, the largest average increase since 1991. Hunger is spreading while the number of homeless families is increasing, primarily because of the recession, those mayors concluded.

Still, our federal government has decided hunger isn't a problem we actually need to solve; we just need to give it a new, happier-sounding, more politically correct name so it doesn't sound so darned unpleasant.

It's a frightening trend. You don't have to be The Amazing Kreskin to envision a future in which our nation's homeless are magically transformed by language into the housing insecure, poor people will become the monetarily unburdened, cannibals will be known as intra-species diners, and your dead Aunt Ida will be known forevermore as a permanently worry-free post-human mass.

And, what the heck, let's stop using that gloomy, depressing word "problem" and substitute "sunny garden of opportunity."

As in, "Houston, we've got a sunny garden of opportunity!"

Or, "If you think a rose by any other name isn't a rose, most mental health professionals would conclude you have a great, big, sunny garden of opportunity."

At this moment, at least 17 million Americans are hungry, and at least 200,000 of them live in your state.

That is a shocking fact. To sugarcoat or obscure it is an outrage, and the exact opposite of what is needed: action, not wordplay.

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the East Oregonian editorial board, comprised of Associate Publisher Kathryn Brown, General Manager Wendy DalPez, Managing Editor Skip Nichols, News Editor Daniel Wattenburger and Senior Reporter Dean Brickey. EO Publishing Co. Board Chairman Mike Forrester and former EO Editor George Murdock also contribute editorial content. Other columns, letters and cartoons on this page express the opinions of the authors and not necessarily that of the East Oregonian.

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