The End of Hunger: Renewed Hope for Feeding the World, Jenny E. Dyer & Cathleen Falsani (eds.), IVP
Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty and who are malnourished has been cut in half. The agreed aim, as enunciated in the UN’s sustainable development goals, is that hunger is eliminated globally by 2030. But at the moment, despite the world producing enough food for all 7.6 billion people, there are still in excess of 815 million people who are chronically hungry. So there’s still a huge problem and much work to do.
The End of Hunger takes a good hard look at the problem from a number of angles. There are twenty-eight short, very readable chapters from different contributors, all of whom are actively working, in one way or another, to tackle hunger. Contributors include activists, politicians, scientists, pastors, theologians and artists, many weaving a faith perspective into their chapters. Interspersing these are a number of personal stories from people whose lives have been blighted by hunger. Overall, whilst the details of the problem are outlined clearly, there is an optimistic note throughout, a sense that the fight to eliminate the scourge of hunger is winnable.
Mark McHargue (Ask Science Mike podcaster host) quotes a variety of scriptures from the prophet Isaiah to Proverbs to the Letter to James to emphasize the biblical imperative of taking action regarding hunger:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without cloths and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go at peace’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?…faith, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15-17).
Ron Sider, celebrated author of the influential Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, goes on to outline the biblical case for economic justice and suggests that Christians, individually and in their churches need to “live more simply to that the poor may simply live.”
Important contributions by David Beasley, executive director the World Food Programme and Kimberley Flowers, director of the CSIS Global Food Security Project, highlight the problem of violent conflict, which is the biggest cause of hunger. 61% of the 815m hungry people in the world live in a war-torn country, and food is often used as a weapon of war. In addition, hunger is a key driver of migration, with all its attendant problems. But Beasley says, “we need to make food a weapon for peace.” Effective humanitarian assistance, he says, is pro-peace, alleviating suffering and protecting civilians, and enabling the “reengagement of people in productive economic activities.” Military spending worldwide is around 2 trillion dollars a year. Former US Secretary of Defence, James Matthias, suggests that effective humanitarian assistance means the US needs to buy fewer bullets. This is clearly a complex issue, but, aside from the humanitarian, suffering-relieving imperative of helping to alleviate hunger, there is clearly a huge security and self-interest factor to be considered by the United States in its efforts and funding for reducing hunger worldwide.
The book is written from a US perspective, with many of the writers commenting on action by the US government and NGOs to address the problem. The US, commendably, over many years has made a major contribution to alleviating hunger. But, if conflict is the major factor in causing hunger, then the question arises of US involvement in conflicts around the world and its weapons trade which helps fuel conflict. I was surprised none of the writers discussed that. As Tony Compolo said in his piece, “wars create hunger, and unless we are committed to stopping wars, the peace necessary to end hunger and malnutrition will continue to be only a distant hope.”
A number of contributions highlight the importance of the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, where adequate nutrition is essential to ensure a child’s growth is not stunted and a variety of health and education problems are averted. In addition, Mark Shriver of Save the Children highlights the way in which malnutrition leads to preventable deaths in mothers.
There’s a consideration too, of hunger within the United States, with the contributing factors of low wages, educational underachievement, race, ethnicity and gender. “If the Bible is correct,” says Jeremy Everett, from the Texas Hunger Initiative, “we will be judged as a nation and world…by how we treat the hungry and the poor, the sick and the homeless.”
The last part of the book deals with “what we can do,” with contributors enjoining us to stop eating in front of the television, eat sensibly and sustainably, reduce waste and to lobby the politicians. Tony Hall, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, questions how much of a priority hunger is for politicians and highlights the power of advocacy. There’s a lovely chapter by musician Brad Paisley and his wife, Kimberley Williams-Paisley about their efforts in setting up a food pantry programme for people in need, indicating that there is much that can be done at a grass roots level.
The End of Hunger is a very readable account of hunger, its causes and potential solutions. The horrifying detail of the effects of malnutrition come through loud and clear, but the book’s contributors are concerned to show that real change is possible and you get a great sense of what is already being done, often by Christian organizations and individuals. But there’s an urgency too – as Gabe Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition says, “I am convinced that the gospel calls us to fight for a better future with hope and courage.”