Sustainability–Ending Hunger

hungerMy basis for writing this short article is to discuss the issues we face, as Pax Pneuma, coming to a conclusion that Peace and Justice do not stand alone, but for part of a much larger equation. In 2000 the United Nations issued the Millenial Development Goal—deadline 2015.  The United Nations Millennium Development Goals were 8 goals that all 189 UN Member States had agreed to try to achieve by the year 2015. The United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed in September 2000, committed world leaders to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women. It soon became clear that these goals were far too ambitious.

This was followed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), officially known as Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a set of 17 “Global Goals” with 169 targets between them. Spearheaded by the United Nations through a deliberative process involving its 193 Member States, as well as global civil society, the goals are contained in paragraph 54 United Nations Resolution A/RES/70/1 of 25 September 2015.[1] The Resolution is a broader intergovernmental agreement that acts as the Post 2015 Development Agenda (successor to the Millennium Development Goals). The SDGs build on the Principles agreed upon under Resolution A/RES/66/288, popularly known as The Future We Want. (UN)

It is my opinion that in 2030 the UN will need to rethink and come up with a new set of goal. Not that they are not achievable, but that there is not the willingness to work together to achieve these goals. Also, it is unlikely that President Trump will even begin the sign on this project, let alone work towards achieving the seventeen goals.

As Christians, we are part of God’s divine Kingdom plan, and I believe that through the Kingdom, these goals are achievable. So, with that in mind, we should dialog with these seventeen goals and propose a solution. We have already looked at Goal #1 Ending Poverty. So let us look at Goal #2 Zero Hunger.

When we think of hunger, our minds usually think of Africa, and rightly so.  400,000hunger2 people in Southern Sudan and Northern Nigeria are suffering from an unprecedented famine, with Yemen and Somalia on the verge. In Somalia, it is a true drought, but in the other three countries, the famine is fueled by conflict.  Instead of countries like the US ending the conflict, the sale of weapons just fuels it.

But, let us go closer to home…

Using United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, Feeding America, a nonprofit that operates food banks, mapped food insecurity throughout each county and congressional district in the United States. The compiled statistics offer a sobering insight into the living standards of large sections of working class and lower-middle class Americans:

* In 2009, the year after the Wall Street crash, some 50 million US residents were food insecure. While that number fell to 42 million in 2015, the budget shortfall for food insecure individuals averaged $527 a year. This represents an increase of 13 percent, adjusted for inflation, since 2008.

* Children are more vulnerable to hunger than the general population. On average, 21 percent of children across all US counties are food insecure, compared to 14 percent of the general population. Some 41 percent of the children in Issaquena County, Mississippi are food insecure, and in 14 counties, over 100,000 children cannot expect consistent meals.

* Twenty-six percent of food insecure individuals nationwide are unlikely to qualify for government nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, better known as food stamps), Women Infants and Children (WIC) and free or reduced-price school meals. In 76 US counties, the majority of food insecure individuals are likely to be ineligible for government assistance. In Douglas County, Colorado, near Denver, about two-thirds of the county’s 28,280 food insecure individuals are unlikely to qualify for government nutrition aid.

One in four food insecure individuals report that they applied for government assistance and were denied. With the 2018 budget that number will increase.

This is no mystery given that in many states a family of four has to earn less than $31,980 a year to qualify for food stamps. In other words, the family has to be living in the direst poverty.

* Millions of people with jobs are living in hunger. Some 57 percent of food insecure people earn more than the (absurdly low) federal poverty level.

* Eighty-nine percent of the counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are located in the South.

* Rural counties make up 63 percent of all US counties but account for 76 percent of the counties facing the highest rates of food insecurity.

However, while urban counties have lower rates of food insecurity, many have huge numbers of people living with hunger. Los Angeles County has a relatively “low” rate of food insecurity at 12 percent, but it is home to 1.2 million food insecure individuals, including 480,000 children. The counties with the highest number of food insecure people are New York, Los Angeles, Harris (Houston), Cook (Chicago), Maricopa (Phoenix), Dallas, San Diego, Wayne (Detroit), Tarrant (Fort Worth) and Philadelphia. (Feeding America)

The callousness of America’s political and business leaders is shocking. A new report from UNICEF, on the well-being of children in 35 developed nations, turned up some alarming statistics about child poverty. More than one in five American children fall below a relative poverty line. The United States ranks 34th of the 35 countries surveyed, above only Romania and below virtually all of Europe plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. (The Washington Post)

Yes, America is a world leader in child poverty. Yet, President Trump wants to increase military spending to a staggering $639 billion.

Hunger does not stand alone.

  1. Hunger comes with health issues. Food pantry supplies are often poor quality, processed, high sugar or salt content.
  2. Programs are not sustainable and are likely to create codependency.
  3. Quantities of available food are variable.

What can we do?

  1. Lobby Congress to increase the SNAP program
  2. Tax credits for restaurants, hotels, and farms that give surplus foods.
  3. Encourage churches and charities to think outside the box. Community Gardens is just option or food preparation classes.

Let us work to end hunger so that everyone has food available and that no child goes to bed hungry.

Dr. Terrence Threadwell

Dr. Terrence Threadwell is Executive Director Pax Pneuma, Pentecostal Peace Fellowship

Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies, American Public University. Director of the Institute for Progressive Pentecostal Studies.