Every day an estimated 24,000 people die from hunger or hunger related causes. Three-fourths of these deaths are children under the age of five. One may wonder how this can be living in a country were it seems so much food is wasted everyday. Food restaurants and grocery stores throw away food every night before closing. Many Americans waste food every day within their own homes. With so much “left over” food in American how is it that an estimated 800 million people around the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition?1 Well, first we must define the word hunger. Hunger, in this case, is not just the rumbling in ones stomach that most of us feel if we have not eaten for a few hours. For this purpose, hunger is defined as
“a condition resulting from chronic under-consumption of food and/or nutritious food products. It may be precipitated by an inability to obtain sufficient quantities of food to eat or a failure to consume adequate quantities of nutritious food products, regardless of the ability to obtain sufficient food supplies.”2
The problem of world hunger is not that there is not enough food produced in the world. “World production of grain alone is over 1.5 billion tons, enough to supply the entire world population with two pounds a day.”3 This grain combined the current production of other foods such as meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts is enough to provide each adult and child on earth 3000 calories a day which is what the average American consumes.4 Americans are not the only ones who waste food. People all over the world are doing the very same thing. And the though it seems that America has too much food, we Americans have hungry people living right here in our own country. The world hunger problem lies within the changing environmental conditions, population, and most of all, poverty. This paper will discuss the causes, effects and possible solutions of world hunger.
There are three major causes of world hunger, changing environment conditions, population, and poverty.
The environment, of course, is the major element in the production of food in most countries across the globe. The environment in which one lives decides what types of food can be produced and how much of that food can be produced. The weather or climate in any particular environment can change and affect what people eat and how much of it they are able to eat. One change in the environment that adversely affects agriculture is soil erosion. “Some one-third of the world’s cropland is loosing topsoil at a rate that undermines its future productivity.”5 Topsoil is a major factor in growing most crops. It is the richest part of the soil and contains minerals and nutrients that most plants need for survival. Too much soil erosion begins a chain reaction leaving the land susceptible to drought. And as we all know, very little food can be grown on dry land. A drought not only affects plants, but as a result of lack of plants and water and in many cases extreme heat cattle are starved or die from thirst. This loss of organic matter in the land results in runoff after rainfall and increased runoff and rainfall allows for flooding. A flood, like the drought though they are opposite, wipes away crops or kills them because of the overabundance of water. People can attempt to produce food by planting and caring for their land and animals, but Mother Nature has the ultimate say and humans are unable to predict what she will do next.
The next two causes of hunger we will discuss together because they coincide, population and the poor. Population is an issue not because there are too many mouths to feed, as was stated earlier, but because the hungry people of the world are the majority who have large families and continue to increase them, thus creating hungry children.
“Poor people have large families for many reasons…Reasons of security for their old age. Reasons about additional help on the land. Reasons concerning the cultural preference for sons. Reasons related to the laws of inheritance. Reasons dictated by traditional religious behavior. And reasons of personal pride”6
These are all reasons why poor people all over the country continue to have large families generation after generation despite their economic condition. The majority of the hungry live and work in rural areas. Why are poor people affected so much by hunger? The answer would be seemingly simple, that they are just unable to afford food. But let us examine more closely other reasons the poor across the world are so stricken with hunger. Many of the poor around the world are tenant farmers and do not own the land in which they work and live.7 These tenant farmers are many times paid very little for the service they provide to the owners and are unable to purchase the food in which they helped produce. Those who do own a small plot of land for farming their own land still need money to do so. In order to care for the land for the benefit of food production a farmer needs tools as well as other materials and resources, all items that cost money.
“Adequate nourishment for a family depends upon its ability either to produce enough food for its own needs or to earn enough money to buy the food-or some combination of the two. Without this ability color the family hungry.”8
Malnutrition is the most common affect of hunger. Malnutrition is
“a term indicating an impairment to physical and/or mental health resulting from failure to meet nutrient requirements. The insufficiency of nutrients may result from inadequate nutrient intake or from interference with the body’s ability to process and utilize nutrients.”9
Malnutrition causes many health conditions such as stunting of growth, tissue wasting, cognitive and behavioral deficits, or starvation. The lack of vitamin C that a hungry person does without can cause scurvy, loss of teeth, and a weakening of the immune system. Lack of iodine in ones diet can cause crippling or mental retardation. The lack of vitamin A in ones diet can cause blindness. In its worst cases, malnutrition leads to death, especially in children. “In Latin America and Caribbean, studies indicate that malnutrition is the primary cause of or major contributing factor in 60 percent of deaths of children under the age of five.”10 Malnutrition hits hardest on the children because they are still growing and developing immunities to disease and developing strong healthy bodies. For a malnourished child, common illnesses such as measles and diarrhea can lead to death. Seventy-five percent of the people that die from hunger every 3.6 seconds across the globe are children under the age of 5. Hunger affects adults as well by weakening their immune systems and making them weak suspecting them to sickness and disease, which will later lead to death.
The solution to ending world hunger does not lie in money or any other one answer. There are many ideas and “solutions” being applied today, yet hunger remains. In terms of dollars the United States has been the worlds largest donor of foreign aid.11 The U.S. Marshall Plan of 1948 was the first government foreign-aid program. General George Marshall outlined the plan stating:
“It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world…Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist…”12
The Marshall Plan put major emphasis on grants and loans for repair of industrial plants and infrastructure. The plan succeeded in many ways. One example is that by 1951 Europe’s overall production rate had risen 37 percent. The four-point plan, the first major plan for the third world country soon followed the Marshall Plan and provided support to small technical assistance projects for a number of developing nations.13
Since the Marshall Plan in the late 40s, the U.S. has continued to help countries through foreign aid policies. However, foreign aid does not just come from countries it can also come from private voluntary organizations. Most often times these private organizations such as “Feed the Children” and the “Christian Children’s Fund” focus on small-scale projects directed toward the third world countries.
Another solution to the problem of World Hunger is through education. The majorities of poor and hungry people around the world are illiterate or have little education. Providing these people with an education would allow them to act successful in the job market, and allow them a better understanding of the politics and conditions surrounding them. In this way education may also provide population control by educating women about birth control methods and family planning. Education may also enable farmers to learn better farming techniques and about food conservation.
World hunger affects everyone on our plant, not just the poor or those living in third-world countries. Hunger touches each one of us because we, the taxpayers, are helping to aid it. Not only does it touch our pockets, but also it touches our conscious. How can anyone look at a starving child and not think about the food that they
waste day in and day out. How can we stand by and watch people that go to work everyday like ourselves and cannot afford to feed their families. It is unfair that we live in a world where food is thrown out in the garbage rather than used to save the life of a child.