When I think of home, I instantly think of the smell of my kitchen. My childhood consisted of my mother discovering new recipes, buying a membership to a local farm, and organizing fresh foods to be dropped off weekly at our home. My upbringing has been one of a high quality cuisine, establishing equally high standards for food. Growing up just outside of Washington, DC, and now attending college on the outskirts of Chicago, I have been surrounded with plenty of food– good food– my entire life. I have never known hunger.
In my affluent area of coffee shops to be sampled every weekend, it is inconceivable to me that 1 in 8 people in the world do not receive enough to eat. This means that worldwide, 34 million children are malnourished, meaning that because they are not consuming the proper amount of calories or nutrients, their organs are damaged, often leading to death. About 33 million of these children continue to suffer from malnutrition, while 1 million children die from hunger every single year. If world hunger were cured, 15 percent of all child deaths would be eliminated.
These statistics shock and alarm me, and, as they would any suburban-raised coffee drinker, confuse me. I have always known about world hunger without being educated about world hunger. My first instinct is to send food to those overseas, because that is where I assume food is most needed. There are two main issues with this initial impulse:
The first is that hunger is worldwide, meaning that there is no country void of hunger. There is hunger beneath our very noses in America’s schools and neighborhoods.
Second, the idea to send food is understandable but would only make the issue of hunger more prevalent. Providing food, though necessary in some dire situations, takes away any independence or self-motivation from those who are hungry. By having open eyes to those around us suffering from hunger, enabling and encouraging them in their own food choices is the next step.
The controversy? Hunger is right here.
Seeds of Contention: World Hunger and the Global Controversy Over GM Crops by Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen affirms that “Food should be consumed where it is grown.” This is beautifully demonstrated right in the heart of the inner city of Chattanooga, Tenn. Hope For the Inner City, a ministry stemming from New City Fellowship, an urban church with an emphasis on cross-cultural worship, has established their slogan as “Changing lives. Transforming communities.”
This is precisely what Hope For the Inner City is doing: in addition to administering summer programs and working with nursing homes, the center partners with the community surrounding the building to create a public garden. This is a place where fresh vegetables can be grown and picked by anyone in the inner city area, an opportunity to not only acquire healthful food options but also work to cultivate them.
This is a fantastic example of combating a major source of hunger specifically in the United States. A food desert is an urban region where fresh food is difficult to find or to buy, leaving the residents very few options in terms of healthful eating. This dilemma runs into the issue not only of hunger but is also another aspect of malnutrition. Without receiving enough nutrients, a poor diet causes digestive problems, as well as physical and mental disabilities.
Treating those suffering from malnutrition caused from a food desert diet is the same as malnutrition stemming from a diet of little to no food: replacing the missing and essential nutrients. By establishing a garden that the residents of the inner city of Chattanooga can work and maintain, the ministry has acknowledged that hunger is local as well as worldwide.
How can I battle the dangers of a food desert?
Hope For the Inner City is a powerful example of encouraging those suffering from a lack of healthy options to cultivate their own foods. By doing so, Hope For the Inner City has provided a means to access food as well as partially handing off the responsibility of preserving the garden. You also have the ability to connect communities and provide healthier options to those living in areas lacking the economic wealth to otherwise offer fruits and vegetables. There are several options for investing in your community or a community near you, whether that’s financially or through service.
These kinds of actions are taken by not only organizations like Hope For the Inner City, but also by individuals such as Shane Claiborne, serving in the urban faith community he and his wife have chosen to live in. Shane has encouraged the community to involve themselves in the participation of their community garden, growing food such as strawberries, asparagus, morning glories, squash, and cucumber. Shane has embraced the concept of fighting the urban food desert, a cause of hunger that he could immediately and tangibly impact. Like Hope for the Inner City in Chattanooga and Shane Claiborne in Philadelphia, we are all part of communities of hunger, whether we know it or not. Let’s open our eyes to these areas and dedicate time to creating healthy and accessible food options for all. This simple action is a responsible step toward ending world hunger.