Friday, April 08, 2005

Hunger: We need to start asking why it exists.

My mom always used to say, “Meghan, you need to eat all the food on your plate because there are children starving in (insert impoverished country here).” I’m sure you’ve all heard something similar from an adult in your life at some point during your childhood. I remember thinking to myself, “If some kid is starving in China, why can’t I just ship them my food? I’m not hungry and I don’t like this food anyway!” The motivation of these handy phrases, like renewing our membership with the “clean plate club,” serve as a reminder of what a privilege it is to be able to have enough food.

Issues of hunger and privilege came up again when a couple of weeks ago, I was reading “Peace: 100 Ideas” by Joshua C. Chen and David Krieger. Each page has a different way to invoke peace within ourselves as well as in our local communities and our global community. One page in particular caught my attention. It gave a statistic of how many children are living in poverty and dying from hunger. After the statistic, it said, “help fight hunger and sponsor a needy child.” This is a noble cause, but I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing.

We all know that hunger exists around the world, yet we rarely hear about why such realities exist. Why is it that two-thirds of the world is comprised of so-called “Third World” countries? Why don’t we ask ourselves why we are so fortunate? I personally believe that these “needy children” represent the consequences of what happens when one group of people hold more than their fair share of the resources.

I’m not suggesting that we don’t work with programs and organizations that advocate using the monetary resources that we have to help others in need. I am suggesting that we push ourselves further – to go beyond recognizing that we do have a fairly decent living condition in comparison to what the majority of the world faces. We need to start asking why children are starving around the world instead of just feeling bad for them. We need to examine the politics surrounding hunger.

Why does our government find it acceptable to allow international banks (such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization) to control and push for agricultural sectors in these countries to plant cash crops instead of sustainable agriculture? Why is it that the majority of Americans have no idea what the WB, IMF and WTO are?

I realize that these questions are difficult and can’t be answered in a timely or simple manner, but I believe we need to push ourselves to start looking for such answers. We need to help educate our friends, our families and ourselves. We can’t keep telling our kids to finish eating their food while we throw money at a problem that seems to be increasing year after year. We need to start asking why.

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