A Goal To End Hunger
October 20, 2013
In the lead up to the 2013 Borlaug Dialogue, the Skoll World Forum is featuring several keynote speakers writing at the nexus of three subjects central to the global challenges we face in the 21st century: biotechnology, sustainability, and climate volatility. The 2013 Borlaug Dialogue takes place October 16-18 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Assistant Director-General, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
We are at a point in history where we can end hunger in our time. We have the ability to carry out Christ’s mission of feeding all of our brothers and sisters. Eliminating hunger by 2030 will require increased efforts by grassroots activists, individual citizens, and policy makers to pressure the U.S. government and Congress to set a goal and enact policies to end hunger once and for all.
Americans acknowledge that hunger is a real, solvable issue. A recent survey indicated that 37 percent of Americans think the U.S. government is doing too little to end hunger in developing countries around the world. Grassroots activists are raising awareness and need to continue to do so. They have to continue to reach younger generations in order to break our leaders’ uncaring attitude towards ending hunger.
Individuals currently help in a variety of ways. They donate to their local food pantries, churches, and direct service charities to help alleviate hunger in their communities. This is important work, but in order to root out hunger, we must change the policies and structures that allow hunger to persist. This is where committed grassroots activists must continue to pressure their representatives in Congress to enact policies that will end hunger for the next hundred years and beyond. At the same time, they must protect existing anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs that are being targeted by extremely conservative members of Congress.
The bulk of the burden of ending hunger falls on the shoulders of government. Only one in 24 bags of food assistance comes from charitable organizations; federal nutrition programs provide the rest. The government has resources that charities and churches just cannot match – neither can meet the needs of all those who, because of massive budget cuts, suffer.
Setting a goal to end hunger is the key. This is nothing new; we have done it before.
President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty is the best example. It was an initiative that 50 years ago created Social Security, Food Stamp Program, Work Study Program, Head Start, Medicaid, and Medicare, among other programs. In the decade following Johnson’s declaration of the War on Poverty, the national poverty rate dropped from 19 percent to roughly 11 percent. This decline in poverty was a result of the government making poverty a priority, setting specific goals to eradicate poverty, and then enacting programs to address poverty.
Sadly, the government no longer prioritizes the eradication of hunger and poverty and, in fact, has put millions of poor and hungry people around the world at risk due to the government shutdown and budget cuts that disproportionately target hungry and poor people. The disruption and climate of uncertainty is putting the brakes on our economy.
Over the past three years, efforts to reduce the federal deficit have overshadowed the vulnerable people who are most in need of assistance – those whom Jesus calls “the least of these.” The most conservative wing of the House of Representatives has uncompromisingly pushed for deep and disproportionate cuts to programs that help poor and hungry people. Members of congress must commit to work together and with the president to set a goal and enact a sensible plan to end hunger.
Only when grassroots activists, individuals, and government start working together toward the goal of ending hunger will we truly help our brothers and sisters. We strongly affirm the government’s responsibility concerning poor and hungry people. The Bible teaches that civil authority comes from God—and God calls for protection of poor and vulnerable people. Assuring government’s obligation to advance the common good, ensure fairness, and defend the most vulnerable is good religion and good politics.
Grassroots activists are doing their part, individuals are doing their part, and it is now government’s turn to do its part by setting a goal to end hunger. We must tell our leaders that balancing the budget on poor and hungry people is distasteful and careless. Job creation and food security will ensure a stable economy. Only then can we make sure that the next hundred years is a century filled with fruit and plenty, and not hunger and poverty.