Margot Hoerrner works for the Friends of the World Food Program (WFP), a Washington-based agency dedicated to ending global hunger. On Facebook, Margot posted one of the questions she is often asked, "Why should I care about hungry people around the world, if there are hungry people in our own country?" Margot is asking for feedback on this question at Facebook.
The same question came up a couple of years ago during a Friends of WFP teleconference with George McGovern. The former senator McGovern has dedicated much of his life to fighting hunger both here and overseas. He worked on building the federal school lunch program and also served as Food for Peace director, an initiative which sends U.S food to help developing nations.
So it was not a surprise that McGovern's response to the question was "why should there be a choice?" Everyone should get enough food to eat. You can fight hunger both at home and abroad.
Some people may be surprised to know that the problem of hunger extends even to the United States. Kimberly Williams-Paisley, who is hosting a documentary on children's health in Tennessee, said that hunger "does affect us here at home." Williams-Paisley, who directed an award winning film on the disease Xeroderma Pigmentosum, recorded a video highlighting child hunger in the United States. A key theme in the video explains that hunger is a solvable problem, particularly when you consider how much food is wasted each year.
There are enough resources in this world so everyone can have enough food. Yet, still there are over 1 billion people who are hungry on this planet. As Heather Hanson of Mercy Corps told me, "The real news is not that people are hungry — but rather that they don't have to be. We can end hunger in our lifetimes."
The World Food Programme has a total shortfall of US$485.4 million to provide food in 2010 to some 11 million people in need of food assistance across all of Sudan.(UNMIS/Tim McKulka)
What's needed to end hunger is the will and a plan of application.
There are ways an individual or group can take on hunger at home and abroad through events in their community. For example, many of us know of churches and other organizations who hold food drives to help their local community. Such an event provides relief for families, especially during difficult economic times. At Feeding America you can see a list of food banks in your area that help those in need.
It is also possible to add a global hunger component to local food drives. For example, the same church or organization could organize a petition or letter-writing campaign to their members of Congress and the President. They could ask their representatives to support global hunger fighting initiatives.
We already have tax dollars going to Washington to support a foreign policy. Why not have a smart foreign policy that makes global hunger a top priority? The Center for Strategic and International Studies refers to fighting hunger as an element of "smart power" and I think Americans would like to see more of it.
Hunger is such a powerful force that it not only threaten lives, but even the fate of governments. Look at Afghanistan. Can anyone picture democracy ever flourishing under its current state of hunger and poverty?
Fighting global hunger is inexpensive when compared to other foreign policy initiatives, like massive nuclear weapons spending. If enough people write to their representatives supporting measures like the Roadmap to End Global Hunger, then some real change could come about.
There are enough resources to end hunger both at home and abroad. Never settle for anything less.