This summer, we are exploring the path from Farm to Table - exploring the many issues smallholder farmers face around the world.
Almost every night before I go to sleep, I get hungry. I’m talking about the mouthwatering, stomach growling, I-can-eat-a-whole-whale kind of hungry. I lay in bed dreaming of breakfast in the morning, telling myself it’s totally plausible to eat a 14-oz medium rare ribeye with buttery mashed potatoes for breakfast. I convince myself that maybe I can get that beautiful steak from carryout at 7 in the morning.
As you can clearly see, I get hungry, but I’ve never experienced Hunger. I’ve been so lucky to never have to know what it is like to be truly hungry. Over 805 million people aren’t so fortunate. So what is hunger? Hunger is not having enough food to eat for months. It’s receiving an unacceptably low amount of macro-nutrients - protein, carbs, and fat - or enough micro-nutrients - vitamins and minerals. Hunger means consistently living on less than 2,100 kilocalories a day. Over 805 million people deal with this gnawing hunger. That’s around 1 in 9 people living with this constant ache.
Hunger is generational. It goes around in a sick cyclical wheel that damages the lives of so many, which is one of the reasons why it’s such a continual problem. It causes delayed growth and a proneness to sickness in infants, stunted physical and mental growth in toddlers, children who have severe learning difficulties, who then grow up to be adults who have chronic illnesses and an educational limit. These adults then start families who now are unable to access food and other needs because they cannot find good jobs since their mental development was stunted due to nutritional deficiencies.
There’s no easy or funny way to put it: Hunger kills. India has an estimated population of 1.2 billion and a quarter of those people are hungry. It deservingly has the title of the world’s hunger capital. About 50% of child deaths in India are due to hunger or hunger related causes. Two-thirds of Asia is hungry. And the problem extends beyond Asia into Africa and Latin America as well. The majority of the hungry live in developing countries, where 3.1 million children die every year due to hunger.
Here’s the good news: we have a solution. Is it a magic bullet that will totally eradicate global hunger? Probably not. But is it a solution that will effectively fight global hunger, making a lasting change for those living in extreme poverty? Yes. To fight hunger, we have to first look to those who are responsible for producing food.
Small farmers are the solution to global hunger. (Bill Gates even said it, so it has to be true.) Food aid is like putting a band aid on global hunger. Farming is a permanent solution. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll never be hungry, right? These small farmers can improve the economy of their own communities, which will broadly address many of the communal issues associated with poverty and provide a source of food for the entire community. And the best part is, these small farmers already exist. But often times they’re so impoverished that they can barely afford to feed themselves.
So help us support small farmers. We already have the systems and tools in place, and we are already helping thousands of farmers. But we still need you. Small farmers are the key to ending global hunger and you can be a part of that. You can make a difference. You can save the life of a child dying of hunger.
So the next time you’re hungry or craving some steak or other delicious meal, think about the person who barely eats – the person who is truly hungry. I hope you experience a different type of hunger – the hunger to stop global hunger.
Gretchen is a 2015 Summer Marketing Intern at Opportunity International. When she's not writing for Opportunity, she studies Music and Conflict Studies at DePauw University.