Poor people are hungry anywhere


Superintendent of schools for Catholic Schools in Lethbridge Alberta said, “We have far too many children living in poverty and coming to school hungry…. that impacts their learning.”  (The Lethrbuidge Herald September 16, 2012, the headline article)  I wonder how many people connected that comment to the letter by Larry MacKillop on the same paper, the Lethbridge Herald about helping hungry people in West Africa. I believe both articles are talking about the same thing: poverty is the main cause of hunger, not availability of food. Then why do we always talk about producing more food and shipping it to hungry countries.

When I lived in Geneva and was engaged in emergency relief for the drought induced famine in Africa during the 1980’s, we in the aid agencies and aid workers weren’t hungry because we stayed in nice hotels and had money to buy good meals, while people were starving to death around us. In Canada there is plenty of cheap food and too much eating, but there are many children go to school hungry. Eating too much food is killing many of us from diabetes and obesity. What is wrong with this picture? We are overlooking the problem of poverty. Of course, hungry must be fed through charity and aid programs. But it’s like bandaid solution. One should not stop there. We must address the root causes of hunger, poverty.

Money not only gives people access to food, but also gives producers ability to keep producing. Our farmers have farm credit, crop insurance, and all kind of other safety nets. African farmers don’t. So when natural calamity like drought strikes, they can not produce food, neither can they feed themselves. During the famine in Ethiopia in 1987, some people in Italy noticed a label on the can of corn beef ,”Made from Beef from Ethiopia.” during the famine in Ethiopia in 1987. So they stopped giving money. OXFAM, U.K. did some digging and found that food export from Ethiopia during the 1980’s actually increased in beef, coffee, and sugar. The government needed hard cash so the industrialized farming sector received all kinds of assistance.

I know that the food issues are complicated. But overlooking poverty is one of the most serious problems. It’s poor people who go hungry. Problem of hunger is not the question of availability of food but of accessibility to it.

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