Commentary: The Shame of Hunger

There are many novel ideas about how to stop hunger but in the end, common sense should prevail.

Posted: 10/13/2011 04:56 PM EDT

The U.S. based hunger non-profit Meds & Food for Kids has been noticed for its clever contribution to Haiti’s dire malnutrition problem: tasty peanut butter supplements filled with vitamins and minerals.

 

The idea is not new however. Non-profits the world over abound with intricate solutions to help curb the hunger that grips so many. While their efforts are commendable and absolutely necessary in the current climate, the question remains: Why aren’t we, as a global community, doing a better job of producing and managing food?

According to the U.N. World Food Programme, hunger is the world’s number-one health risk, surpassing HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The agency reports that nearly 925 million people do not have enough to eat and 98 percent of them live in developing countries. And though the pictures of skeletal children with distended bellies often come from far-flung nations, poverty-related hunger is also an issue for the United States. The USDA reports that in 2010, nearly one in seven American households were unable to feed themselves — the highest number ever recorded.

 

We often tell children, “Don’t waste your food, there are starving children in (insert impoverished nation/county/neighborhood here).” But the simplicity and common sense embedded in the time-honored nag is something that shouldn’t be ignored. First of all, contrary to popular belief, there is more than enough food to go around. Americans throw away nearly 40 percent of all the country’s edible food supply — a practice seen with similar frequency in other industrialized nations such as Canada and Great Britain.

Here in the U.S., measures are being taken to ensure that the public’s waste helps meet some needs of the hungry. Some cities, such as New York, have food rescue organizations that pick up uneaten food from restaurants and cafeterias to distribute to the homeless and hungry. Other programs take food that isn’t edible — such as table scraps or expired food — and donate it to livestock farmers or use it for compost. Programs like these could and should be replicated nationwide and worldwide to ensure that no one in our modern age has to ever go to sleep hungry.

Food waste also results from mismanagement, something that industries and governments the world over have been guilty of. Many nations have damaged their food supply through corruption, and mass crop loss sometimes results from a lack of farming knowledge and technology. The 2011 Global Hunger Index cites food prices as the largest contributor to food insecurity and malnutrition — not food availability. 

The food we need already exists. Its time for the global community to adopt common sense, grassroots strategies to get that food to people who need it rather than re-inventing the wheel, relying on fickle commodities markets and making millions dependent on temporary food aid.

 

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

 






 

(Photo: Swoan Parker/Reuters)

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