I’ve been thinking about hunger for a few days now—ever since I signed up to participate in Art House Co-op’s ‘The Meal’ project. The project is meant as a ‘shared meal’ around the globe, whilst at the same time bringing the issue of hunger to mind, and has certainly given me a lot to think about.
Growing up, I was always starving. Well, at least I was pretty convinced that I was starving in my pleas to my parents for a snack less than an hour before dinner was served—a dinner that would have come after I’d already been fed a nutritionally balanced breakfast and lunch earlier in the day.
The fact was, however, that I was far from starving. My sisters and I never went without food for more than a few hours at a time. And when we were given food, there was more than enough to go around. We may not have liked what we were being served, but we were always provided with healthy and nutritious meals.
Not only were we provided with food growing up, but we were given invaluable lessons on how to prepare foods. Those lessons mean that I am able to feed myself well as an adult—even when I’m on a tight budget. And living in a modern, Western society means that I will always have food available to me.
But not everyone is so lucky. In fact, according to Action for Hunger International, nearly a billion people are affected by global hunger. Additionally, deadly acute malnutrition affects 55 million children worldwide—despite it being preventable and treatable. (See the ACF’s map of nations most affected by acute malnutrition here.)
So, here are some more quick facts for you:
(Source: World Food Programme hunger stats)
- Hunger is the world’s No 1 health risk, killing more people than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis each year—combined.
- One in seven people go to bed hungry every day.
- One in four children in developing countries are underweight.
- There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of the USA, Canada, and the European Union.
Let’s compare that to these facts:
- In 2010, more than 34 million tonnes of food waste was generated in the USA.
- The UK produces approximately 7 million tonnes of food waste each year.
- In 2008, 1.5 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese.
There is enough food grown and produced in the world to feed everyone but, shockingly, there are many barriers that prevent it from getting into the hands of those who need it: Natural disasters such as floods and storms destroy crops. Drought and climate change have caused crop failures as well as the loss of livestock. Wars and conflicts—as well as shoddy infrastructure—prevent the transportation and distribution of food. Poverty prevents people from accessing proper nutrition. And poor farming practices leave land stripped of its nutrients—or at risk of erosion or deforestation.
Fixing the problem isn’t as easy as packing up your un-eaten leftovers and shipping them off to Ethiopia. It’s not as easy as handing someone a fish—and in many cases, it’s not even as simple as teaching someone to fish.
But that doesn’t mean we’re helpless in the fight against hunger. Action Against Hunger International offers a selection of ways to take action and help. Yes, money is great and does a lot to help the cause, but it’s not the only way to help. You can give your time by educating others about world hunger (Facebook and blogs are great tools for that!) or by volunteering at food banks or other community organisations that strive to eliminate poverty.
And now, I’m going to ask you to take action. Oh yes, I am! But I’m not asking you to give money or volunteer (though I urge you to do so if you feel so inclined!).
Instead, I ask that you think about food. Think about all of the food in your cupboards, all of the food you eat, and all of the food you throw away. Think about it and talk about it with your children. Then give thanks for all you have. Because even if all you have is a tin of baked beans and a bag of rice, it’s still more than some people have.
And if, after you’ve thought about it, you want to do something more, visit Action for Hunger International’s website or stop into one of the homeless shelters or community action centres where you live to see what you can do to make a difference.
Wow. All of that about hunger. And we’ve only scratched the surface.
(Thanks for reading!)