We have become complacent with global hunger. This was the conclusion of Amartya Sen, Nobel prize winning economist and Cambridge scholar. Sen wondered how the world seemed to have an easy tolerance for hunger.
Last week I spoke on global hunger at an event called Famine or Feast in Vancouver. I used four numbers as a means to gain insight into hunger and under nutrition in our world.
Nine: One in nine people in the world is hungry. These people have gone 12 months with insufficient daily kilocalories for even a sedentary lifestyle. There is also the factor of hidden hunger. Two billion people suffer from a serious lack of micro nutrients like Vitamin D. In Canada, over 800 thousand people a month depend on food banks.
Seventy: Seventy percent of hungry people, men, women, and children, live in rural areas where food is produced. These people are poor. Some are landless. They feel the impact of climate change in tropical and semi tropical countries.
Eighty: Eighty percent of the produce consumed in Africa and Asia comes from small farms. Farmers with small landholdings play a critical role in feeding the world’s expanding population.
Twenty-five: There has been a twenty-five year decline in development assistance to agriculture. This is surprising because the World Bank has shown that assistance to agriculture has the greatest impact on the economies of developing countries. Here in Canada, our government has reduced foreign aid to agriculture by 25% since 2010-2011.
Our scriptural tradition addresses hunger and food in deep ways. Jesus called himself the bread of life in John’s Gospel. We nourish our lives and find strength for our journeys through faith in him. Jesus pronounced a blessing on those that hunger and thirst for righteousness. Our longings for mercy, justice, and righteousness begin to find their fulfillment as we follow Jesus into a broken world of violence and disparity. Jesus called on his followers to share their tables with the poor. He was concerned for people that were hungry and isolated in their communities. He wanted his disciples to take action on their behalf.
One action we can take is to advocate to our governments for greater assistance to farmers with small landholdings in the global south. This can be a prophetic act of speaking for the poor. I recommend two websites for further information: