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The 2012 Book of Discipline 632.4b(21) directs the Conference Board of Global Ministries “to support the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s World Hunger/ Poverty Ministry by encouraging annual conferences to appoint an annual conference hunger coordinator and form an annual conference hunger committee that relates to the annual conference board of global ministries.” Don and Caroline Kluver are the volunteer coordinators. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org – 712.732.7901 with your questions
Who are the hungry?
According to the latest Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statistics from 2014, there are 805 million hungry people in the world and 98% of them live in developing countries.
Three-quarters of all hungry people live in rural areas. They are dependent on agriculture for their food and have no alternative source of income or employment. FAO calculates that about half of the hungry people of the world are from smallholder farming communities. They farm marginal lands prone to natural disasters like drought or food. Another 20% are landless families dependent on farming and about 10% live in communities whose livelihoods depend on herding, fishing or forest resources. The remaining 20% live in shanty towns live in shanty towns around the edges of big cities in developing countries.
An estimated 146 million children in developing countries are underweight – the result of acute hunger.
Women are the world’s primary food producers, but social structures often mean women are much more affected by hunger and poverty than men. A woman who is underweight due to an inadequate diet often give birth to low birthweight children.
According to FAO, there are many reasons for hunger in the world and they are often interconnected.
1. Poverty trap – People living in poverty cannot afford nutritious food for themselves and their families. They are weaker and less able to earn money to help them escape poverty and hunger. When children are chronically malnourished, it can affect their future income, condemning them to a live of poverty and hunger.
2. Lack of investment in agriculture – Too many developing countries lack key agricultural infrastructure, such as enough roads, warehouses and irrigation. The results are high transport costs, lack of storage facilities and unreliable water supplies. Research by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization shows that investment in agriculture is five times more effective in reducing poverty and hunger than investment in any other sector.
3. Climate and weather – Natural disasters such as floods, tropical storm and long periods of drought are on the increase – with calamitous consequences for the hungry poor in developing countries. In many countries, climate change is exacerbating already adverse natural conditions increasingly, the world’s fertile farmland is under threat from erosion, salination and desertification. Deforestation accelerates the erosion of land which could be used for growing food.
4. War and displacement – Across the globe, conflicts consistently disrupt farming and food production. Fighting also forces millions of people to flee their homes, leading to hunger emergencies as the displaced find themselves without the means to feed themselves. In war, food sometimes becomes a weapon. Soldiers will starve opponents by destroying food and livestock and wrecking local markets.
5. Unstable markets – The price of food products has been very unstable in recent years. This makes it difficult for the poorest people to access nutritious food consistently. The poor need access to good food all year round. Price spikes may temporarily put food out of reach, which can have lasting consequences for small children. When prices rise, consumers often change to less-nutritious food which raises the risks of micronutrient deficiencies and other forms of malnutrition.
6. Food wastage – One third of all food produced (1.3 billion tons) is never consumed. This wastage represents a missed opportunity to improve global food security in a world where one in eight is hungry. Producing this food also uses up precious natural resources that we need to food the planet. Each year, food that is produced but not eaten guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River. Producing this food also adds 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, with consequences for the climate and, ultimately, for food production.
According to Bread for the World, nearly 1.2 billion people in developing countries live on less than $1.25 a day. The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 13.5 percent of the population is undernourished. Asia has two-thirds of the total. Each year, 2.6 million children die as a result of hunger-related causes.
We live in the world’s wealthiest nation. Yet 14.3 percent of U.S. households – a total of 49.1 million Americans, including 15.8 million children struggle to put food on the table. More than one in five American children are at risk of hunger.
We can end hunger in our time. Everyone, including the government, must do their part. By making our voices heard in Congress, we help to ensure laws which are fair and compassionate towards people in need.
Iowa – Last year, 11.9 percent of Iowa households were at risk of hunger. The economy is improving, but not fast enough. Relief isn’t getting to families that need it most. Nearly 1 in 6 Iowa children live in poverty, including 31,956 children under age 5. Hunger and poverty hit children hardest. Hunger affects children’s growth and education for the rest of their lives.
Since 2009, wages for the bottom 60 percent of American workers fell by 4 to 6 percent. Families on average are still earning $4,500 less than before the recession. A full-time job is no longer enough to keep a family out of poverty. 50.2 percent of Iowa households in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) are working households. Nearly half of Iowa SNAP recipients are children or elderly. Many SNAP participants who can work have a job but still need assistance. SNAP lifted 3.7 million Americans out of poverty in 2013. The average SNAP recipient transitions off the program within nine months. SNAP is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs. Yet Congress has proposed cutting SNAP funding 13 times.
Bread for the World’s 2015 Hunger Report is out. Read it at www.bread.org.