This morning, on Fox and Friends, I said "no one" starved during the Depression. I was almost certainly wrong.
During the Depression, the governor of Pennsylvania wrote, "we know that starvation is widespread, but no one has enumerated the starving." However, all other governors who wrote to Congress, 43 of them, sent letters saying that they knew of no starvation in their states. Historians Steven Mintz and Sara McNeil wrote that there were hundreds of deaths in NYC alone.
However, hunger was rare enough that health in America generally improved during the Depression, according to a National Academy of Sciences study:
"Population health did not decline and indeed generally improved during the 4 years of the Great Depression, 1930-1933, with mortality decreasing for almost all ages, and life expectancy increasing by several years..."
How was this possible without Big Government welfare programs? 30 percent of American men belonged to mutual aid societies, groups of people with similar backgrounds who banded together to help members in trouble. They paid for doctors, built orphanages, cooked for the poor. Neighbors knew best what neighbors needed. They helped the helpless, but taught self-sufficiency to others.
Mutual aid didn't solve every problem, so government stepped in. But government doesn't solve every problem either. Instead, it caused more problems by driving private charity out.
There's no doubt that there was privation of all sorts in the 30's - when America was much poorer. But today's reduction in malnutrition is almost entirely a result of greater prosperity, thanks to our relatively free market.
Our unsustainable welfare state causes poverty (by rewarding dependency) as often as it relieves it. Stopping government handouts to people like ME won't lead to starvation.