Monday, September 14, 2009

Food aplenty; so why are 960M hungry?

The 2009 Global Action Forum and Celebration, presented Sunday in San Francisco by CARE USA and Power to the Peaceful, lent important perspectives on food supply and world hunger.

Among three panel discussions on key issues of global poverty, one focused on hunger with a goal of focusing on a modernized approach to food security. From the sobering discussion:

* Panel moderator Jurriaan Kamp of Ode Magazine opened by relating that the United Nations set a goal in 2000 to cut in half the number of hungry people in the world by 2015. In the nine years hence, the number of "chronically hungry people" has risen from about 700 million to 960 million. That's more than 14 percent of the world's population.

* University of California Berkeley Professor Alain de Janvry, an agricultural economics specialist, said hunger is causing the irreversibly damaging phenomenon of "wasting" among one-third of the world's children. "Wasting" is a loss of muscle mass and other body tissue.

* CARE USA Senior Policy Analyst David Kauck said there is more than enough available to feed the world's population, but that income and other economic factors restrict food access for some social groups.

* Vitamin Angels President & Founder Howard Schiffer said 27,000 children die every day of hunger.

* Ari Derfel, co-owner and CEO of Back to Earth in Berkeley, said that in Great Britain, 250 pounds of food are thrown away every second of the day. Doing the math, that's 21.6 million pounds every 24 hours.

No silver-bullet solutions were offered. But there were glimmers of hope:

* Kauck said movement is afoot to change U.S. federal government policy concerning hunger to separate it from U.S. agricultural policy and politics. That could mean that the U.S. approach to the problem of world hunger won't simply be an outlet for U.S. food exports, as it is now. Exports often dampen the market for food from other countries, whose economies are much more reliable on agriculture, and thus are affected greatly by subsidized competition from the United States.

* Derfel said the slow food movement is awakening people to the need for sustainable local agriculture and a move away from corporate food production. He cited a number of recent books and films calling attention to the issues, including Food Inc.

* Schiffer said he would be happy to be "put out of business" by a return to sustainable food raising and good nutrition among hungry populations. His nonprofit provides natural vitamin supplements for key nutrients that are missing in the diets of impoverished people.

Sobering thoughts all, most especially in light of the bounty we in California and throughout the United States experience on our tables.

For more information and to find out how you can take action, go to CARE USA's Web site.

(Disclaimer: My wife, Hilda Oropeza, is Director of Community Partnerships, San Francisco, for CARE USA.)

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