Events & Media
Together, we can fight the global hunger crisis, an op-ed by M.S. candidate Shaylah Reagan
Valley Views: Together, we can fight global hunger crisis
Shaylah C. Reagan, Poughkeepsie Journal
(c) 2009 Poughkeepsie Journal
Cleaning our plates was a common refrain around the family dinner table as I grew up in Cortland County — the second eldest of nine. So far as I was concerned, those lima beans could go straight in the trash. But mom said we were lucky to have them.
She was right: Though I didn't appreciate it then, we all were fueled by wholesome food that sometimes was subsidized by the government. When we no longer needed the support, it was easy to transition away. As a result, we kids were well-nourished and given the chance to thrive.
Today, I'm lucky enough to be a graduate student at Bard College — and an intern for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Washington, D.C.
According to the New York State Community Action Association's 2008 Poverty Report, 7 percent of the population in Dutchess County lives in poverty. This is well below average for the state and far from average for the world. A staggering 1 billion people — or one in six on the planet — lives on less than $1 a day.
Hunger kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Tragically, one child dies from hunger every six seconds. For the first time, the number of chronically hungry people has surpassed 1 billion — equivalent to the combined populations of the United States, Canada and the European Union.
The United States is not immune. Many Americans suffer from hunger; the food stamps program has hit record levels today. However, unlike many developing countries, we enjoy strong social safety nets — like the ones that helped my family — that give our population access to food and education.
WFP, the world's largest humanitarian organization, provides emergency food to tens of millions of desperately hungry people in more than 70 developing countries hit by conflict or natural disaster. WFP also strives to knit safety nets for families struggling to cope with the food and financial crises.
One of WFP's most effective safety nets is the school meals program, targeted at the roughly 66 million children in the world who go to school hungry. Receiving these meals in school can be transformative — especially for girls. Attendance rates and performance go up — dropout rates go down.
And all this for just 25 cents per day, per child.
Nobody wants to rely on external support to feed one's family. WFP's goal is to support families until they can stand on their own; in fact, more than 30 countries have "graduated" from WFP school meals programs.
I am returning to New York for the holidays — not only with my stretchy "feasting" pants, but also with greater understanding of how lucky we are to take for granted education, health and food.
The WFP has given me a new perspective on world hunger. Yes, there are starving people in Africa — a continent where one in three go hungry — and yes, I was darned lucky to have had lima beans put on my plate.
But the story does not end there. There are also organizations like WFP and its partners who are fighting to change the face of hunger. If we are to solve hunger, it will require both political will and resources from governments. Yet even modest steps by people like us, taken collectively, can turn the reality around.
Just one example: tens of thousands of people playing freerice.com have donated more than 71 billion grains of rice to WFP programs since it debuted two Thanksgivings ago!
Today, in its first Internet citizen's campaign — Billion for a Billion — at www.wfp.org, WFP is asking those with plenty to help those without. If each member of the global online community (estimated 1 billion) gave just $1.50 a week — about the cost of a slice of pizza — a billion people would have enough to eat. Together, we really can make a difference.
This event was last updated on 02-13-2010