It’s a huge and disturbing irony: about 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten, often ending up as landfill. Meanwhile, 1 in 6 people in the country — 1 in 5, if we’re focusing only on children — are at risk of hunger, according to statistics from Feeding America.
Every year, hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WGP) says. Around the world, 827 million people do not have enough to eat. Most live in Asia and in developing countries. 45 percent of the deaths of children under five (3.1 million each year) are due to poor nutrition.
Study after study touts the importance of breakfast. But across the developing world, 66 million primary school-age children (23 million in Africa alone) attend class on an empty stomach.
Thanksgiving falls next month in the United States. Too often, a holiday that originated as a way to express gratitude for a good harvest seems to have evolved (degenerated) into an excuse for all-out gluttony. In the lead-up to Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, here are ten ways to fight hunger and to give thanks by giving back to others.
2. Understand what it means to live with constant food insecurity. Many of us are fortunate never to have to experience hunger. The website She Knows suggests that we imagine what it would feel like to have a big deadline or test approaching and no breakfast, lunch or dinner available: how would we manage?
3. Find out what happens to uneaten, unsold and leftover food from your local grocery stores, farmer’s markets and restaurants. Could some be donated to a local organization to feed those in need? If it isn’t, can you find out why and ask if there are ways to change this?
4. Be a host to a food drive: next time you have a family gathering or a cookout — or at an upcoming Halloween party — ask people to bring items that can be donated to a local food bank.
5. Volunteer at a food bank or with other local group that assists those who face food insecurity. One of my aunts has done just this for years, spending her Christmas mornings and afternoons at a San Francisco soup kitchen.
6. Play the game FreeRice.com. For every answer you get right, ten grains of rice are donated via the WFP to fight hunger. The WFP has also developed a game called Stylista in conjunction with Bangok-based Sandbox Global, to provide aid to emergency food assistance operations in Syria.
7. Take action and tell Congress not to make even more cuts to SNAP food assistance. Of the 48 million Americans on food stamp assistance, 20 million enrolled as a result of the 2008 economic crash. Let your legislators know that they need to pass policies to help people who are going hungry right now.
8. Advocate for sustainable agricultural practices and for organic farming. A September report from the U.N. says that small-holder farms could produce enough food to feed the world by not using pesticides and fertilizers. Such methods could also assist in managing the stresses of drought and other catastrophic weather brought on by climate change.
9. Support women’s rights to own land: according to the WFP, ”if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.” When women own land, their family’s chances of falling into poverty are reduced; women are also more likely to spend income on food, health care and the education of their children.
10. Remember that food insecurity is not only a global health issue. As Care2 blogger s.e. smith wrote, not having, and not knowing, that you’ll have regular access to food can and has caused civil strife and political unrest not only around the world, but throughout history.
Just recall Marie Antoinette’s scornful “let them eat cake” on hearing that peasants did not have enough to eat. It’s not easy to survive on an empty belly, but the need to eat and to make sure your family can be enough to start a revolution.
Photo from Thinkstock
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