Is Eliminating World Hunger Possible?

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In honor of World Food Day, I felt inspired to write about something near and dear to my heart – World Hunger.

World Food Day promotes awareness and action for eliminating world hunger, ensuring food security and access to nutritious diets for everyone.  The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) actually has a goal of achieving “zero hunger” by 2030.

Some people may believe that eradicating world hunger is an unreachable or unattainable goal but hear this:

Reaching #ZeroHunger is possible: out of the 129 countries monitored by FAO, 72 have already achieved the target of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015; over the past 20 years, the likelihood of a child dying before age five has been nearly cut in half, with about 17,000 children saved every day; extreme poverty rates have been cut in half since 1990.(fao.org)

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In the Spring of May 2000 I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to The Gambia, West Africa.  The group of University students that I went with lived and worked with The Sisters of the Presentation of Mary.  As an aspiring dietitian and nutrition student at the time, I was particularly interested in the nutritional aspect of feeding the hungry and sick.  We were able to help out in the schools, church and the hospital.  Never did I realize how life-changing this experience would be.

One of the most memorable days was working with The Sisters of Charity (Then Mother Teresa’s order of nuns and now Saint Teresa of Calcutta) at a malnourished children’s center.   The day we were there 28 children were present ranging from ~2-4 years old.  Some of the children had protruding stomachs (Kwashiorkor or bacterial infection?), some had severe stunting of growth and some also had disabilities.  We helped feed the children but also just held them or played with them as many were just seeking some love and attention (they would cry until you picked them up).

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Working at the hospital definitely took me out of my comfort zone and I experienced a very different reality than healthcare in Canada.  Another young woman and I were tasked to help in the kitchen and then help deliver the food to the hospital patients.  Tasks included peeling potatoes and carrots or helping out wherever needed.  We were sent with baskets of hard-boiled eggs to wards with beds with at least 2 children per bed (on either end).  One day by surprise they put a towel on my head, placed a very large pan of hot millet porridge with peanut butter mixed in (for protein) on my head and asked me to deliver it.  We walked across the street and into the hospital to several other wards this way. (I was so nervous I was going to spill!)  They had a 1 Week Cycle Menu at the hospital (this is not inclusive – only what I helped with and documented in my journal):

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My experience in Africa changed me forever and I (like many others doing this type of work) claim that “you always seem to gain more from it than you give”.  Experiencing a country with extreme poverty and starvation puts into perspective how much we have to be grateful for and definitely strengthened my faith.

Not everyone has the opportunity to volunteer in another country nor is it necessary.  However, whether you are helping to fight hunger in your own community or supporting an international organization, both are equally important.  Just know that ending World Hunger is possible!

3 International Organizations working on World Hunger: (that I have learned about recently)

  1. Mary’s Meals: www.marysmeals.ca 

Provides one good meal every school day to some of the world’s poorest children (where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education).  Impressive: Focus on sustainability as Mary’s Meals buys locally sourced food to boost local economies.  By focusing on the education of children they are helping break the poverty cycle and aim for eventual self-sufficiency in the communities they are supporting.  Also, Mary’s Meals are very committed to keeping their running costs low.  For every $1.00 donated the organization spends a minimum of $0.93 on their charitable activities. (only 7 cents spent on governance and fundraising)

2. MANA: (Mother Administered Nutritive Aid) www.mananutrition.org

Develops and provides solutions to address severe cases of malnutrition in children. They produce a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) made of a fortified peanut paste.  Impressive: MANA directly empowers mothers (most often in a village setting) to feed their children and prevent suffering or death from severe acute malnutrition.  It’s great to see a non-profit innovating therapeutic nutrition products and supporting groups to help local communities make their own RUTF.

3. Chalice: www.chalice.ca

Uses a direct family funding model to dispense sponsorship funds for a child’s education, nutrition and medical care.  Impressive: Each parent/guardian receives training in basic financial literacy (they are educated, supported and held accountable for funds spent) to help them manage their child’s sponsorship funds.  This encourages self-reliance and greater participation in their children’s education.  Over 90% of funds go directly to programs.  (Chalice received an “A” in Money Sense Charity rating.)

4 thoughts on “Is Eliminating World Hunger Possible?

  1. I am old(85), visited many African, Asian countries as part of my job (Prof. McGill University, Director McGill International – coordinating overseas programs. Was Chair of the Board of the Canadian World Food Day Association (discontinued after funding was cut). Visited FAO Rome many times. Taught course on World Food Security at Queens U….So this is my view. World food insecurity will not be solved by charity (I donate to many NGO’s). Major limiting factor is unlimited population growth the control of which requires family planning and use of birth control systems. As these programs are NOT supported by major religious organizations – they are partly responsible for food insecurity. Another negative factor is the “land grab” situation effecting many poor African countries – Land is purchased or leased by rich countries/companies and exported out of Africa (check it out – Google “land grab” or look up past issues of National Geographic. There’s a lot more negative effects. The rich shall profit – the poor will suffer.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Eugene. It sounds like you are well-educated with amazing experience in the area. In my opinion, I disagree with population control being the major limiting factor when the rest of the world has more than enough resources (and wastes them) to solve world hunger. (Also I am reminded of the damage this mentality has done to other well-off countries where they are afraid their culture and people will now die out as birth rates are so low.) In addition, I think many charities have become smarter in terms of putting money and support into sustainable causes to find a solution vs a bandaid and this I find very hopeful. Investing in education and building up local sustainability can only be helpful. I don’t know much on the land grab situation so I definitely will look it up! Maybe I’m an optimist but I found the progress stats on World Hunger by the FAO very promising… thanks for sparking discussion.

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