Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Teaching Kids about Hunger

The clamor begins just inside the door of Ridge Academy elementary school on Chicago’s South Side. Short essays and drawings shout out to all those who pass:

“Many people are dying now because of hunger.”

“In many countries, people do not have enough food or water to survive. The most kind of people that are dying are children. We need to get food and water to them before they die.”

“People are sick and I want to help. If you want to make a difference, get them clean water and healthy food. We don’t want them to die.”

“When you are hungry your tummy makes a sound.”


“In many places there are people and children who can’t drink good water. At the school that I go to we are trying to get hungry people to get food and get safe water to drink. Some—I mean a lot—of children and babies are dying. That’s all folks.”

That’s all folks! What more needs to be said? Simple, declarative sentences from Skylar and Rebecca and Aixa and Camra and Chloe and Vinny, Tia, and Joshua that are eloquent appeals to end world hunger. They are all part of Action Against Hunger’s campaign to get even the youngest citizens involved in the clamor.

“We want to get them while they’re young, get them thinking about something beyond their own worlds,” says Barbara McKinnon of Action Against Hunger’s school campaign.

In far-off places of the world, Action Against Hunger is on the frontlines of the hunger battle, deploying innovations like Plumpy’nut, a peanut spread fortified with nutrients that often brings severely malnourished children back from the brink of starvation. In the U.S., the organization is working with about 100 schools this year spreading a different kind of elixir to more fortunate children—awareness.

The educational program, now in its third year in this country, leads up to a Race Against Hunger. It is modeled on an initiative in France (where Action Against Hunger began) that has been running for 13 years now; some 750 French schools raised about 2.2 million Euros from the races last year. American schools, just starting out, raised $66,000.

Last week, the students of Ridge Academy began running in a light drizzle. A clap of thunder introduced a downpour, and the runners retreated to the school. There, the education continued. The seventh- and eighth-graders presented reports on Afghanistan, and talked about hunger emergencies in other countries that have suffered wars and natural disasters. And they talked about their three annual visits to help out at the local food pantry.

“We have a responsibility to make the world a better place,” said their teacher, Jan Cardella-Koll.

“Hunger is an issue that can be solved. We have to talk about it,” said Ms. McKinnon.

“Just by running you’re raising awareness,” added Cardella-Koll. “Just by talking to your parents and friends.”

She asks how many of the students will join service organizations in high school. A forest of arms shoots up. “I want to do something,” says one of the students. “We take so many things for granted here.”

On the other side of the world, in Rome, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization was also urging people to do something—namely, to get angry and raise the clamor for governments to make ending hunger their top priority.

“We should be extremely angry for the outrageous fact that our fellow human beings continue to suffer from hunger,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.

The FAO has launched a campaign called the “1 billion hungry project.” Its logo is a yellow whistle, encouraging people to blow the whistle against hunger by signing a petition to the governments of the world to act, particularly at the G8 meeting in Canada next month.

For motivation, watch the video made by actor Jeremy Irons (see below), who joins us in spreading the outrage as he plays a character based on the television executive in the movie Network. Irons, magnificently wild-eyed, exhorts viewers to open a window and shout, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to let 1 billion people go hungry. You tell ‘em!”

Or, in the simple words of a child, “Some—I mean a lot—of children and babies are dying. That’s all folks.”

Roger Thurow’s blog post appears courtesy of the Global Food for Thought blog. Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, is a senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

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