Today, June 5th, 2007, is National Hunger Awareness Day here in the United States. While famine and hunger persist throughout the world on most every continent, there is still considerable hunger here in the U.S., and a great many people and organizations are doing the frontline work to improve the grim statistics.
Famine, a state of utter deprivation and starvation, is indeed a reality for many peoples of the world during specific periods of time, often in relation to war, drought, and other situations which lead to massive numbers of refugees crossing national borders under duress. Food insecurity, however, is a newer term which denotes something less than famine, but still a chronic condition which gives rise to hunger and lack of resources to consistently put food on the table, whether for an individual or a family.
According the the Food Research and Action Center, "35.1 million people lived in households considered to be food insecure" in 2005, and "of those 35.1 million, 22.7 million are adults (10.4 percent of all adults) and 12.4 million are children (16.9 percent of all children)". Additionally, "the number of people in the worst-off households (previously called “food insecure with hunger” and now called “very low food security” households) rose in 2005, from 10.7 to 10.8 million."
These numbers are staggering. Here in the United States, ostensibly the most wealthy nation in the world (a highly debatable point), 16.9% of all children in our country live in households which are categorized as food insecure. According to the National Priorities Project, we have spent more than $431 trillion on the war in Iraq as of this writing. Alas, the children of American are suffering in our own backyard, and the money flows elsewhere like oil through a pipeline.
So, what can we do? According to America's Second Harvest (The National Food Bank Network), individuals can end hunger by advocating, raising awareness, donating, sponsoring an event or volunteering. There is no end to what we may be able to do as a country, but it seems that the will to act is always the initial secret to any activism on the behalf of others.
I was sadly not shocked by the statistics quoted above, but I am disheartened that this country which is literally awash in disposable consumer goods cannot feed its own. If we want to end hunger and poverty in the world, perhaps there is no better place to begin than here.