Every meal reminds us that there is something inherently cruel about a fellow human being starving to death.
On the hit reality show Survivor, contestants are intentionally starved. Yes they get rice, the Producers aren’t willing to kill contestants for ratings (yet), but the lack of nutrition is a key component to the psychological endurance test that true Survivors must endure.
Even so, Survivor is just a game.
But everyday, millions in the United States go hungry. Some even starve to death. We have conveniently tucked these souls away in our inner cities and pockets of desperate rural poverty – out of sight, out of mind. But, we know that this is wrong. As Christians, as humans, we are called to find and feed these people in the U.S. and around the world.
Consider these facts…
Nearly one in five children live in homes that struggle to put food on the table. That’s 16 million children. The statistics below come from No Kid Hungry.
- Food insecurity—the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food— exists in 17.2 million households in America, 3.9 million of them with children.
- Rates of food insecurity are substantially higher than the national average among households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line, among households with children headed by single parents (35.1% of female-headed households with children are food-insecure) and among Black and Hispanic households.
- Food insecurity is most common in large cities but still exists in rural areas, suburbs and other outlying areas around large cities − 25 % of households with children living in large cities are food-insecure.
- The typical (median) food-secure household spent 27 percent more for food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and composition.
- 59% of food-insecure households reported that in the previous month they had participated in one or more of the three largest federal food and nutrition assistance programs: SNAP (formerly food stamps), School Lunch and WIC.
At the other end of the vulnerable population spectrum are the elderly. The AARP reports that nearly 9 million seniors go hungry, and it’s a problem hiding in plain sight because many seniors are too embarrassed to ask or even acknowledge that they need help. Many who would help don’t realize how little most seniors have to live on, and how badly the economic decline has affected them.
And that’s just within the United States. Globally hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis COMBINED. Below are a few statistics from the World Food Programme, a part of the United Nations and the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger world-wide.
- If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.
- Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.
- One out of six children — roughly 100 million — in developing countries is underweight.
- One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three.
- 80 percent of the world’s stunted children live in just 20 countries.
- WFP calculates that US$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children.
So, what can we do to help? Do you know of a local soup kitchen? They are almost always looking for resources – whether it be to wash tables or donate a couple pounds of potatoes. Many local efforts are supported by national organizations like Feeding America, who collect donations and distribute them to the areas with the most need.
No Kid Hungry uses donations to teach families how to best use the resources they have, such as how to cook healthy meals with SNAP and WIC coupons. The AARP has teamed up with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon with the Drive to End Hunger program.
If your heart is broken by the international statistics, WFP is funded entirely by donations and has a variety of ways to get involved.
Photo credit: iStockphotos.com