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World has means to end hunger, experts say

Mud cookies dry on a sidewalk in a neighborhood in Cite Soleil, near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Residents in the poor country eat the cookies to stave off hunger.
A UMNS photo by John Gordon.

Part of a special report

By Kathy L. Gilbert*
June 24, 2009

A mother in Haiti walks away from her home, crying and praying for God to send her something she can feed her five starving children.

The Rev. Lee Warren and Allen Renquist
of Stop Hunger Now check a food
shipment in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A UMNS photo by John Gordon.

“She prays for manna, send manna, and manna never comes,” said Dr. Lisette DiManche, a doctor at the Clinic of Communite of Christian Church in City-Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In her work at the clinic, next to a school, she sees the daily effects of malnutrition and poverty.

DiManche sees many hungry, desperate mothers who are helpless to feed their children. Such a mother “will go out everyday praying like this and leaving her children alone.”

This clinic receives aid from Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger organization. City-Soleil is a slum in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, where children eat “mud cookies” to stave off hunger pangs.

Meanwhile, advocates working to end hunger contend that the world produces enough to feed everyone between 2,700 and 3,000 calories a day.

“We basically produce enough food to make you fat,” said the Rev. Kenneth C. Horne Jr., executive director emeritus, Society of St. Andrew. “The food is not very well distributed and never has been.”

When asked if worldwide hunger can be ended, Horne and others advocates give a resounding “Yes.”

“We have the means, we have the technology, we know a lot about what needs to happen,” said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, an interdenominational hunger organization.

“I was called to be a missionary economist,” Beckmann declared. “The most important thing we can do is pray—get our prayers and priorities right.”

The other thing Christians and people of faith can do is advocate for the poor and hungry. Congregations who care about world hunger can make a difference, he said.

“The main thing we need is more ‘give a damn.’ It is political will.”

Called by God

The Society of St. Andrew, started in 1979, is a Christian ministry dedicated to “gleaning America’s fields and feeding America’s hungry.” Horne, a United Methodist pastor, co-founded the organization with another United Methodist pastor, the Rev. Ray Buchanan.

Children at a school in Cite Soleil, near
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, eat meals provided
by Stop Hunger Now.
A UMNS photo by John Gordon.

“We felt ourselves very deeply called by God to be in ministry to the poor and we were searching for the ways and means to do that,” Horne said.

Excess produce translates into 15 million to 20 million pounds of fresh food annually that goes from the field to a hungry person’s plate, often the day it is gathered.

Mike Waldmann, current director of the Society of St. Andrew, said “it is not a matter of doing good, it’s a matter of living your faith.”

“We’ve actually already solved hunger in this country. In this country we just let it exist,” he added. “When you consider that we waste more than enough food than is needed to feed every hungry person in this country … how can you say hunger has not been solved?”

Time for a conversion

Miguel A. DeLaTorre, professor for social ethics at Iliff School of Theology, pointed out that 20 percent of the people living in the United States are the richest in the world; own 85 percent of all the world’s income; produce 66 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases and consume 70 percent of the world’s energy.

A young girl is surrounded by trash at the dump nicknamed Smokey Mountain in Manila, Philippines. A UMNS file photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.

“Our lifestyle, our consumption, is literally stealing the natural resources of the rest of the global community,” he said.

People of faith have the power to turn the world upside down, he said, but religious institutions needs to undergo a conversion.

“I’m not talking about conversion the way it has been understood within very narrow evangelical circles,” he said. “I’m talking about conversions to the actual teachings of our religious faith, to actually do what that faith calls us to do.”

Read the Bible and one thing is pretty clear, God cares for the poor, says Susanne Scholz, assistant professor of Old Testament at Perkins School of Theology, Dallas.

“The concern for poor people is tremendous,” she said. “You have it in Exodus 22, in Deuteronomy 10 … God stands on the side of the poor and oppressed.”

Almost 50 percent of the world’s population is poor, she noted. Almost 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day and over 1 billion live on less than $1 a day.

“As Christians we should be not only horrified about it, we should make it our focus.”

Scientists and faith

The world’s population is outgrowing agriculture productivity, especially in Africa, said Shivaji Pandey, director of plant production and protection, Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy.

A child scavenges for food in a garbage pit near Malanje, Angola. A UMNS file
photo by Mike DuBose.

Pandey and James Butler, a staff executive with the Food and Agriculture Organization, feel a growing world can feed itself with technology.

Pandey pointed to bio-engineering that has brought the “Real Star” grapefruit to the United States, eight varieties of rice to Vietnam and Durham wheat to Italy.

However, the Rev. Jaydee Hanson, policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, doesn’t believe bio-technology is the solution to the global food crisis. He said most genetic engineering is designed for profit and to make plants immune to pesticides.

“In 30 years of making genetically modified crops, there’s not a single commercial crop that’s been engineered for increased yield, for drought-tolerance, for salt-tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or other traits that you would want if you were gonna use this for fighting hunger,” explained Hanson, a United Methodist.

Call for change

Horne believes that people need to rethink the way they live. Pastors should encourage congregations to conduct business in a way that consumes less energy. “Do away with the Styrofoam coffee cups for one thing, let’s go with the nice china,” he suggested.

Washing coffee cups is not going to solve the world’s problems but “it cements in the mind of the people in the congregation that there is a problem and it has something to do with the way I live my life.”

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Horne said he encourages telling people to write their congressional representative, their senator and their state legislators to call for energy alternatives.

Leadership worldwide needs to have a spirit of cooperation to solve the problem, Horne said. “How many million people do we have to watch starve to death before you get to that point?”

As prices for basic food items have doubled in the last two years, many people only eat once a day. Some, like those mothers in Haiti, watch their children eat mud cakes, while others have to choose between feeding their children or educating them.

“We need to learn to pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ with open eyes to the needs of the world,” Beckmann said.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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U.N. urges practical steps to help hungry

World food crisis especially impacts the poor


Bread for the World

The Earth Institute at Columbia University

Food and Agriculture Organization

International Center for Technology Assessment

Society of St. Andrew

“Roadmap to End Global Hunger”

United Methodist Board of Global Ministries

United Methodist Committee on Relief

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