Thinking about hunger near and far on World Food Day

Photo: Oxfam International. Some rights reserved.

Photo: Oxfam International. Some rights reserved.

October 16th is the day the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization designates as World Food Day. It's a day to remember all the people in the world who go hungry or undernourished and what the rest of the people in the world can do about it:

World Food Day offers the opportunity to strengthen national and international solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty and draw attention to achievements in food security and agricultural development.

The European Union is taking the occasion to note that hunger is not just quantity but also quality of food:

In Guatemala, for example, even if it looks like the fields are full of maize and corn you will find one of the highest rates of stunting in the world, with half of all children there chronically undernourished. The consequences last a lifetime: a child who suffers from undernourishment up to the age of two will have his or her mental and physical development damaged forever.

Much closer to home, an article on North Country Now really drew my attention, pointing out that the number of food stamp (SNAP) recipients in St. Lawrence County has increased 60% (!) in the five years since the recession began:

There were layoffs at GM and Alcoa in Massena, and GM eventually closed its plant there. The county’s unemployment rate topped 10 percent. Most of the SNAP increase – about 50 percent – occurred at the onset and in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, from 2008 to 2010.

Making things tougher for those people is the fact that on November 1st, the temporary boost to food stamp benefits created by the federal stimulus in 2009 will come to an end. That means, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a family with three children will lose $29 in food stamps every month, leaving beneficiaries with an average of $1.40 per person per meal. Of course, food stamps are supposed to be a supplemental program, not a full diet, but still, that's not a lot of money.

One thing that really hit home for me when I was covering the impacts of the recession in the North Country – many of us are one layoff or one medical emergency away from food insecurity.

So that's what I'm thinking about on World Food Day today. Hunger is a global issue and a very local one. As we debate the role and reach of government on the federal level – and funding for food stamps is very much a part of that debate – let's remember that the outcome may very well hit close to home.

For another take on World Food Day, listen to my interview with Kitchen Gardeners International's Roger Doiron about spurring young people to food activism, what he means by "subversive" gardening, and how he led the campaign to get a garden planted at the White House. Doiron will be in Potsdam on World Food Day.



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One Comment

  1. The USA should stop trying to feed the world. People need to feed themselves. And if they can't feed themselves, they shouldn't be having children.