I’ve said it, and I’m sure you’ve said it too: I’m starving. I know that I’ve never truly been starving; I’ve been incredibly hungry, but never starving. It’s a phrase we use to describe our momentary hunger, not a pervasive state of our daily life. World Food Day gives us an opportunity to consider those who endure harmful, unrelenting hunger—and how we can use our plenty to make a difference for them, both the chronically hungry in our own neighborhoods, and those with even greater physical needs around the world.
Hunger Statistics and Food Security
An estimated 842 million people in the world suffer from chronic hunger, a lack of food preventing them from living a healthy life. In the United States, 1 in 6 Americans are chronically hungry. These millions know what it means to be hungry to this degree. Last year alone, an estimated 17.6 million U.S. households were classified as being “food insecure.” Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, and North Carolina are the leading States with the largest population of food insecure households. But what exactly is food insecurity? To put it simply, individuals facing food insecurity do not know where their next meal will come from. They don’t have access to the food they need to live a healthy life. For the estimated 17 million children who are living in these food insecure households, there are school programs to help provide meals, but that is oftentimes not enough to solve the problem.
The documentary A Place at the Table takes a close look at those who struggle with food insecurity, bringing awareness to a very real yet overlooked reality. Yes, I know that there are individuals who are hungry; I see them on the corners holding a sign, asking for food. But chronic hunger does not just touch the homeless; it touches hard-working adults, youth, and elderly who struggle to make ends meet with the income that they receive, paying their bills and skipping several meals when they have no other option.
World Food Day
Since 1981, the Food and Agricultural Association of the United Nations has been orchestrating World Food Day. Every year on October 16, the FAO teams up with organizations around the world to bring awareness concerning the state of hunger on our planet, as they work toward ending the hunger struggle that affects many, both young and old.
This year’s World Food Day theme is Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition. With the population continuing to increase, basic food production needs to increase to meet the demand. Not only do many people lack access to basic food, but they also lack access to nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables. The FAO is also aware that there are certain places (food deserts) that do not receive deliveries of the kinds of food that provide good nutrition for those in need. An increased awareness of the food system’s gap in transport of these food items is one way that the FAO and World Food Day hope to improve food value chains.
World Hunger and You
What can we do, in our little corners of the world, to aid in the fight to end world hunger? The FAO and World Food Day have some ideas for action, and the options are endless, really. Hosting a World Food Day Meal may be a great option for some, as we seek to educate ourselves on the value of food and where it comes from. If you find your schedule to be somewhat flexible, and if your city has one, you may be able to join a local hunger coalition. These coalitions aim to bring food security to all at the “town, city, county, and state levels.” If you’ve ever volunteered at a soup kitchen, or if your church has ever been involved in homeless ministry, then you may be interested in organizing a food packaging event. The participants are able to actively engage in a hands-on event, by taking grains, fruits, and vegetables and compiling ready-to-eat meals for those in need.
Our Greatest Need, Met
As I’ve been reading and researching for this piece on WFD, it has been coupled with a study through the gospel of Mark that I’m doing with a college student from my church. Much of what we have read recently has been Jesus’ miracles to feed the multitudes that came to Him. He saw their need, He felt compassion, and He met the need. Jesus, the God-Man, felt compassion, much more than I ever have, and gave bread to those in need. And much more than that, He gave up Himself, the Bread of Life, for those same individuals. I think mercy ministry is one of the most difficult things to be involved in, because there has to be gospel and needs met. Sometimes it can be really tough to do both. Or, you set out to do one, and forget or fail to do the other. As I seek opportunities to meet the needs of those around me (and those further away), I cannot forget that the greatest need is for those to know the Bread of Life. It is my own deep, spiritual hunger that connects me the hunger of others. Hunger is the common bond. This motivates me to care for those with aching stomachs and souls, to offer a filling for both. And not just today, World Food Day, but any day that provides an opportunity to care for someone in need.