THE BLOG

Food for Thought

10/16/2012 09:55 am ET | Updated Dec 16, 2012
  • Brett Hahn 17-year-old high school student in New York

When asked, "What is the single most important thing that your parents have ever done for you?" there might be a lot of answers that come to mind. Perhaps providing you with an education so that you can read, write, and have a successful career. Maybe, the most important thing that your parents did for you was providing a roof for you to live under. But the answer to this question lies within the first 1,000 days of our existence; from the time that each of us was just a fetus in the womb to the age of 2 years-old, our parents properly fed us. Making sure that we were well0nourished enabled our brains to fully develop and succeed in the classroom, strengthened our immune systems to fight off infections, and put us at an advantage over the world's impoverished.

Ensuring that children are receiving the proper foods they need to grow, however, is not the hard part; it is having access to food for the nearly 1 billion that go hungry everyday that is the problem. There is enough food produced in the world to feed everyone, so why do 10 million people die every year from hunger and malnutrition? There are many reasons, but the most prominent ones are related to climate change. More frequent natural disasters such as drought, flooding, and storms have made agriculture more difficult for families that rely on small plots of land for food.

Today, drought is the single most common cause of food shortages in the world. This year, the UN reported that extreme heat and drought in the United States, a country that exports food to many other countries, affected harvests so badly that it sent food prices soaring. Recently, Oxfam said that the price of crops like wheat and rice might double in the next few years due to climate change, which would have devastating consequences for people living in poverty who spend the majority of their income on food alone. For the world's two and a half billion people living on less than $2 a day, increased food prices can be a matter of life or death. If farmers are unable to buy seeds, tools, fertilizers, or equipment, they drastically reduce their ability to feed their families; this has a cumulative effect, locking families and communities in an unbreakable cycle of poverty.

Even more worrisome is the rapid growth of our planet's population. This year, Earth's population hit a record 7 billion people, and with the rate at which the population continues to grow, Earth is expected to be home to 9 billion people by 2050. A larger population puts an increasing demand on food in some of the world's poorest countries. In order to meet growing demand, the UN estimates that food production must increase by 50 percent by 2030.

Hunger is not, however, a problem that is too far away for its effects to be felt or to not matter to people living in developed countries; even though the United States is one of the richest countries in the world, more than 46 million Americans experience hunger each year. Fortunately, the U.S. government has established numerous programs to increase food security, like food stamps and free school lunches. These food programs reach over 75 million people today; can you imagine if government didn't provide this assistance?

Hunger can be eliminated -- this is a fact. Industrialized countries like the U.S. have huge economies and tremendous resources that can provide affordable solutions for those that go hungry each day. It is estimated that it would cost $30 billion to solve the world hunger crisis. Though this may sound like a lot, the entire world spent $1,200 billion on arms in 2006. Given the enormous wealth in developed countries, we have a responsibility to share some of this wealth to reduce widespread global crises like hunger. Americans spend over $50 billion per year on dieting and weight loss, but instead, this money could be invested in sustainable solutions. Because the world is so connected today, it only makes sense that in reducing hunger, the world progresses as a whole.

In light of World Food Day, on October 16th, you can raise awareness about the current hunger crises affecting the world. Instead of going out to lunch or dinner, donate that extra money you would've spent to an organization that is working to end hunger related problems that impoverished people face. You can host a dinner party that fosters conversation about where your food comes from, who cultivates it, and what steps you can take to make a positive impact on creating a better food system. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen to feed those are less fortunate than you, or package food aid that is distributed both at home and abroad to assist those in dire need of food. Set up a garden in your backyard, community park, or school; locally grown foods are better for the environment and can also be donated to food pantries. But most importantly, be the change that you want to see, stand up, and make your voice heard! At www.endinghunger.org, you can sign a petition calling upon governments to make the elimination of hunger their top priority. My school community will have their own event on World Food Day, called Take A Kid Out to Lunch, where students and teachers can donate $2 to provide a meal for a child in need. These are just some of a few simple actions to take that will have a big impact on reducing global hunger.