|Commentary: It's well past time to end hunger|
Steve Compton loads potatoes for distribution to area food banks during a Society of St. Andrew "potato drop" at Emory University's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. A UMNS file photo courtesy of Emory University.
A UMNS Commentary
By the Rev. Kenneth C. Horne*
June 4, 2007 | BIG ISLAND, Va. (UMNS)
Enough is enough.
The Rev. Kenneth C. Horne
Now that’s a phrase you’ve heard many times. When your mother said it to you, it meant "I’ve had all I can take! Stop it NOW!"
To me, it still means that and much, much more as I reflect on nearly 28 years in the anti-hunger movement and as we recognize National Hunger Awareness Day on June 5.
Hunger exists in our world for two reasons.
In the less developed world, people go hungry, and sometimes starve, for lack of enough food to feed them. Famine caused by drought, war and pestilence is endemic in far too many places. But for the first time in the history of the human race, eliminating this kind of hunger is clearly possible. It will take time, energy and lots of aid to poor countries. But with help in the form of food, infrastructure, agricultural help and education, famine can and must be eliminated from the human experience.
In the more developed world, on the other hand, people go hungry in the midst of plenty. To our enduring shame, this phenomenon is most blatantly visible in the United States. We Americans are rich beyond imagining in most things.
The list of what there is enough of in this country is impressive.
There is enough food thrown away every year in the United States to feed every man, woman and child that goes hungry.
According to studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we throw away well over 90 billion pounds of food each year. Most of that food is edible but unmarketable for cosmetic, size or other reasons. We have more than 35 million hungry people in our country, one third of them children. No self-respecting people should ever allow that to happen while food is going to waste.
There is enough surplus wealth in our country to deliver that food to those who hunger.
"There is enough food thrown away every year in the United States to feed every man, woman and child that goes hungry."
We are the richest nation in the history of mankind. We can afford to fight wars in several countries simultaneously. We can afford disposable diapers for our children, disposable cameras to take pictures of our children, and disposable packaging for virtually everything we use. A country as rich as this lets its children go hungry because it wants to, not because it has to.
There is enough know-how in our country to devise ways to distribute that food to those in need.
It should be obvious to even the dimmest among us that a nation that can put a man on the moon, invent the Internet and manipulate human genetics can find a way to put three square meals a day on the plates of all its children.
There is enough compassion in our people to want all of our hungry neighbors fed adequately.
As so often happens in our democracy, the people are way out in front of their leaders on the whole question of hunger. A poll taken for the Alliance to End Hunger shows that the vast majority of people – Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative alike – place elimination of hunger in the United States among their highest priorities.
Then why do we still have more than 35 million hungry people in our country? What is there not enough of?
There’s not enough leadership.
Our priorities at the national level simply do not include eliminating hunger. Our tax dollars are not spent in a way that reflects the people’s wishes where the hungry are concerned. Unless and until we insist that our elected representatives act so that all hungry children are fed, they won’t be. Elected "leaders" who don’t lead in this area should be unelected as soon as possible.
There’s not enough vision.
Far too many of our religious institutions spend far too much time squabbling about the hot-button issues of the day and neglect the fundamental command "when you see your neighbor hungry, feed him." Instead of allowing issues of theology and philosophy to divide us, America’s religious bodies should band together and show our leaders and our people a vision of what "one nation under God" could look like if we let that God guide our priorities. Religious institutions that can’t muster that level of commitment should be abandoned.
"It should be obvious to even the dimmest among us that a nation that can put a man on the moon, invent the Internet and manipulate human genetics can find a way to put three square meals a day on the plates of all its children."
There’s not enough outrage.
Hunger has been with us for so long we have grown numb. The temptation, even in the anti-hunger community, is to go about our tasks as if hunger will always be with us. We need to step back a little until we can see clearly again. To see a child go hungry is a shame and a pity when the hunger is caused by lack of food. It is a sin and a crime when food is plentiful and the people around that child will not trouble themselves to feed him.
Because of our position as the world’s richest nation, it falls to us here in the United States to provide leadership in the global fight against hunger. If we refuse to feed our own hungry children, we have no chance to provide the necessary leadership on the global stage. This failure is simply unacceptable to any committed disciple of Jesus.
It’s time for us to declare "enough’s enough."
Editor's Note: National Hunger Awareness Day is sponsored by America's Second Harvest food banks. Contributions to the Society of St. Andrew, Advance #801600, may be made through local churches, by mail to Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9068 or by phone at (888) 252-6174.
*Horne is executive director, Society of St. Andrew, a national nonprofit hunger-relief ministry.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com .
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