The numbers are staggering: 1.02 BILLION people. In a world that has just surpassed a population of seven billion, that’s a little more than one in seven. The number is greater than the populations of the United States, Canada, and the European Union combined. Their problem? They don’t have enough to eat.
Every Wednesday, I set the garbage by the curb and count the number of large bags representing the waste generated in just one household. Three bags is a light week. Most week, there are five of these large lawn & leaf-sized bags sitting there. Some weeks, there are as many as eight bags full of the over-consuming waste of just one American household.
Meanwhile, within less than a mile’s radius, there are people who’ve not had a warm meal of any kind in weeks. They rummage through the dumpsters behind restaurants after everyone’s gone home, hoping to find perhaps some bread that hasn’t been tainted. They get sick often from what they eat, but for them, it’s bad food or nothing. They are living off the waste of gluttons.
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Yes, the majority of the world’s hunger occurs in what we dismissively refer to as “third world” countries. Asia and the Pacific account for roughly half the world’s hungry. Sub-sahara Africa hosts another 20% or so. Yet, there is no country, no corner of the world, that is totally untouched by hunger. Hungry people are all around us, and as the world’s economy spirals into steeper decline, those numbers grow more deadly on a daily basis.
The problem is not that we don’t have enough food. The United States alone harvests enough food to adequately provide healthy meals to over three-quarters of the world’s population. Yet, rather than distributing that food to places where conditions prevent any successful form of agriculture, we hoard vast amounts of that food, stuffing our stomachs beyond natural capacity, and throwing away the rest.
Now, let’s bring this home a bit, shall we? The 40 million tons of food wasted each year in the United States alone would be more than sufficient to totally end hunger on the entire planet. Stop for a moment and think about it: what you don’t use, the portion that is thrown away due to spoilage, or because little Jacob didn’t like the taste, or because it looked “funny,” or simply because you cooked too much, would be enough to feed over a billion people!!
What’s sad is that these statistics are neither new nor surprising. We’ve known of the severity of world hunger for over 50 years and yet done practically nothing to stop it. Sure, there are dozens of food relief organizations, and there are plenty of charitable events in which one can participate and give nickles and dimes to help fight hunger. A few of those organizations do wonderful work on shoestring budgets so that the majority of what they receive can go directly to aid the hungry. Yet, charities are not enough. Too many not-for-profit organizations are bloated with high salaries and operational costs, leaving less than 20% of donations to go toward any real help. There is also the problem that, once aid is on the ground, workers may not be able to get the food to those who need it because of political unrest.
The problem of hunger around the world is admittedly more difficult and complex than it might appear on the surface. We cannot simply take food off shelves at our local grocery store and send them to families in Burkina Faso or Malawi. Global hunger is daunted by political unrest, a shortage of drinkable water, and disease among other things. Sustainable solutions don’t come easily nor cheaply. Yet, for every day we do nothing, thousands die.
Let this sink in: every five seconds, a child dies from hunger-related disease.
22,000 children die every day from poverty-related conditions.
Imagine, if just one of those were your child. Wouldn’t you want something done?
The time has come, America, for us to put down our knives and forks, forego the feasts of the holidays, and direct our attention toward saving lives rather than expanding our waist size. The $60 you might spend on a yet another mindless video game can feed hundreds. The $200 you would spend on sporting equipment you might use once before shoving in a closet can feed an entire village. The $400 spent on a big-screen plasma TV can mean the difference between life and death for hundreds of children.
We can end global hunger, and we can do it now. Remember that the next time you move a fork toward your own mouth.