What better time to reflect on hunger issues than when we gather to savor the bountiful harvest this Thanksgiving.
SN's Special Report, Pages 19-30, on Food For All reminds us of the millions of people here and worldwide grappling with food insecurity.
Food For All statistics are sobering. Consider the United States is part of the elite club of about 57 developed and industrialized nations with a combined population of only 0.9 billion, or less than one sixth of the world's 6.5 billion people. Compare this to the 125 nations classified as low and middle income, in which 5 billion people live. Those countries generally have a lower standard of living with access to fewer goods and services. There are said to be an estimated 852 million people hungry in the world today, up 10 million from the previous year.
In America hunger is less severe but of equal concern, with over 36 million Americans said to be food insecure.
Hunger represents a broad spectrum from the impoverished to the starving. Those who border the hunger line in this country have social safety nets to fall back on. Such support doesn't exist in sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia where 40% of the population makes less than $1 a day and the bare essentials are lacking. Clearly, the hunger scale weighs down heavily in such Third World countries.
In 1985 the Food Industry Crusade Against Hunger was formed in response to the famine in Ethiopia. Sadly, not much has changed on the world front in those 21 years as we view reports coming out of Darfur, where ethnic conflict has resulted in many starving.
The original charter for FICAH and Food For All was to aid hunger-related causes around the globe. Over time Food For All's funding to international causes has declined from $1 million a year to about $60,000 a year. Right now Food For All funds non-government organizations that aid Third World countries out of its bottom line. Retailers say a benefit of working with Food For All is they can designate where the funds raised go. A shift appears to have occurred in the industry's philanthropic view, from a global vision when the industry reached out to the Ethiopian cause, to supporting local needs. Most retailers would tell you charity begins at home first.
Yet, the world has gotten smaller. Food distribution companies, including those internationally based retailers that do big business here, now do business in many emerging nations.
Not to take away from the importance of funding local food banks, consider the impact of a $5,000 donation to a self-help program in Afghanistan. Women are loaned a small amount to buy sewing machines so they can work and break out of poverty. The funds and program are perpetuated as the women pay back their loans, which are re-loaned to others.
Retailer funding also could be directed to ethnic markets here benefiting families in homeland countries.
Given our abundance here, the time has come to reassess the need and tip the hunger scale toward those fighting to stay alive. We can't escape the global village. From a humanitarian perspective, we all need to embrace the Food For All cause by aiding those in need the most. Hunger does not discriminate.