for release Friday October 15, 2004
by Melodie Davis
Do You Know Anyone Who’s Hungry?
I grew up hearing sermons about “hungry children” almost every night at our dinner table—especially if there was something I didn’t like for dinner. At least that’s the way it seemed to me then and even now, in my distant memories.
But I’m not complaining. It was an ethic and worldview worth instilling—making us aware that we had much much more than so many people in the world.
Now, I appreciate where Dad was coming from with his constant sermons, statistics, and reminders. I appreciate it because he wasn’t only a man of statistics and stories: he was a man of action, planting a “Friendship Acre” for CROP (Christian Rural Overseas Program) for many years and then coming up with the idea to start a whole “Friendship Acre Farm” in around 1963. The idea really took off, and in subsequent years, hundreds more farmers were instrumental in planting and donating the crops off of complete farms to feed hungry people through CROP.
Dad was also concerned about the criticism leveled against a hunger program like CROP, such as “The food never gets to the people who need it,” “It rots in the warehouses,” etc., and “You’re only promoting dependency.”
So, he extended a planned trip to a major church conference in Europe when he learned that by just adding a couple hundred dollars to the ticket, (this was with 60’s prices) he and my mother could keep going east the rest of the way around the world. They wanted to stop off in places like India, Thailand and Vietnam to see first hand the distribution of food and also animals sent through the Heifer Project program.
In India they saw people eagerly scraping up every single piece of grain that spilled from bags that had been loaded onto a truck from a warehouse—no waste there. However, one worker did tell him that the difference at that time was in “government” grain and that which came from faith based relief organizations. The grain from relief organizations got through efficiently and to the people who needed it, while grain that was handled by the governments frequently was left spoiling over red tape, legal work, and greed of sometimes corrupt officials.
One of his most moving experiences out of that trip, though, was an experience of not being able to respond to persons in need. He said that several hungry men had come to the workers hoping to also get grain or whatever was being given out. They were turned away, because the food was allotted to the women and children. “If we give these two food today, there will be hundreds here tomorrow expecting the same and we just don’t have enough to go around.” The memory was still vivid and emotional enough to make Dad break down even 30 years later when he told this story on a video.
This Sunday, October 24 a special program on hunger begins airing on ABC TV stations across the U.S., Hunger No More: Faces Behind the Facts (stations air it at different times and have the option to air or not air it). Produced by Mennonite Media for the National Council of Churches, the program is filled with the updated facts on hunger (like I used to hear as a kid, maybe you did too). In the program, Jeffrey Sachs, Ethicist of The Earth Institute at Columbia University says, “There are about a billion people on the planet that struggle for their daily survival.” David Beckman, CEO of Bread for the World adds “… they just never get the calories they need to live energetic lives.” Sachs goes on, “…many fail in that struggle, dying of diseases that are preventable or treatable.”
If you have trouble believing the stats, look at it this way: while people may not be starving to death in as great of numbers as they did in the past, the fact is that many suffer from malnourishment. People in that condition are weakened and more susceptible to diseases and illness—even simple diarrhea can be devastating for a child.
In North America, we assume that anyone who wants to work, can eat. I will always remember one adult Sunday school class when the teacher made the blanket statement, “I don’t think any one of us knows what it means to be truly hungry.”
One very-middle-class-but-formerly-single-mother piped up, “Well, yes, I do. When I was single and my children were hungry, I often would really skimp on my food the last couple days of the month, and I would go to bed very hungry,” she described.
For an eye-opening look at hunger around the world—including North America today, and what faith communities especially are doing about it, be sure to watch Hunger No More: Faces Behind the Facts (http://www.ncccusa.org/news/04hungernomore.html) And check out Heifer Project, an especially worthy program that helps eliminate hunger by placing animals in the hands of families around the world who use them to supplement their income and who in turn are asked to share the offspring of their animals with another family. Visit www.heifer.org/
Write to me at: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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