Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Overanalysis leads to paralysis... Why 400,000 meals are wasting away in storage in the US while people are starving..

This very second…400,000 packaged meals, or 5.3 millions dollars worth of food, idly sit in a warehouse in Arizona. While I write this blog, millions of people in the United States, and throughout the world, are hungry or even starving.  These hungry and impoverished people would be grateful for just ONE of the 400,000 packaged meals.  Today is October 14th, and the meals have remained untouched in the warehouse since the beginning of September.


The 400,000 emergency ration packs were originally sent by the British government in order to help feed the thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana and Mississippi suffering from a lack of food.  But, a bare minimum of the meals have actually been distributed because the emergency ration packs have beef products in them, and the US government has had a ban on beef imports from Britain since 1997.  This ban was enacted due to fears surrounding the spread of mad cow disease from Britain and other European countries to the United States. “A degenerative disease of the central nervous system, BSE (mad cow disease) is fatal in cattle and can lead to a similar illness in humans called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.”(“Katrina Food Aid Blocked by U.S. Rules,” Washington Post, October 2005)

           So maybe it isn’t a big deal that 400,000 meals have gone uneaten. After all, nobody wants to contract some potentially deadly disease, right?  Maybe so...but then I ask… Isn’t hunger potentially deadly as well? Wouldn’t it be wiser for the US government to distribute the packaged meals to those suffering from extreme hunger, in spite of the extremely low chance of contracting disease?  Instead, the US government has remained caught up in blaming each other for the mishap of beef imports, while also exploring avenues for distribution of the food to an impoverished country such as Guatemala. Distribution of the emergency ration packs to another country begs the question of why, if the packaged meals are so dangerous to eat, the United States would be willing to put another country at such a high risk of disease?  Maybe the risk of contracting disease from eating beef in the meals isn’t that high?

The US government recognizes the complete wastefulness of 400,000 packaged meals going bad in a world where hunger-issues abound.  As a senior State Department official stated, “Everyone wants a happy ending…No one wants them [the packaged meals] to go to waste. Everyone wants them to be put to good use."(“Katrina Food Aid Blocked by U.S. Rules,” Washington Post, October 2005) But to what use are the meals being put to by sitting in storage?  Some of the meals will spoil in early 2006, and the food storage is costing US taxpayers 16,000 dollars per month.  If the government had distributed the food in early September, the US government could have spent 16,000 dollars on hunger-related issues that has instead been spent on food storage costs. A few years ago, I heard the quote, “Over-analysis leads to paralysis,” and I strongly agree with the idea behind the quote.  The U.S. government needs to, at least temporarily, ignore the political red-tape surrounding beef imports into the United States, and listen to the voices of its impoverished hungry people that need food, beef or non-beef, in order to survive and thrive.

Terri Teuber, Spokeswoman for Inspectors from the Agriculture Department, commented on the current warehouse situation in the Washington Post article. Teuber said, “There is no question that different consideration would have been given to the situation if people were hungry.” (“Katrina Food Aid Blocked by U.S. Rules,” Washington Post, October 2005) But Terri, people ARE hungry…right here in the United States. If the United States is willing to spend 5.3 million dollars worth of food to aid another country, my view is that the beef content in the meals must not pose a significant risk compared to the risk of death due to hunger. It’s time for the U.S. government to abandon its political stubbornness and realize the positive impact that 400,000 meals could make in the lives of poor, hungry Americans. And, if the packaged meals truly pose a significant risk of fatal disease, the meals need to be thrown out of storage or sent back to Great Britain so the storage money can be used in better, more effective ways. It is time to take action.

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