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On World Food Day, A Call to Action against Hunger

Hunger and poverty are two faces of the same coin. As food prices rise, more people are pushed into poverty – helpless in their daily struggles to put food on their tables. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, World Food Day (10/16) is another opportunity to raise awareness of the problems of hunger and poverty, and to empower individuals to find long-term solutions.

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization was founded 68 years ago on October 16th. Since 1981, the day has been observed as World Food Day.

"The United States National Committee for World Food Day is made up of 450 non-profits organizations working on hunger-related issues," Patricia Young says. The national coordinator for World Food Day USA says for a quarter of a century, the U.S.-based coalition has been working to raise awareness among Americans about hunger – in the United States and around the world – and ways they can fight it.

"We do broadcasts for colleges and cable stations and so forth. We have materials for schools k[indergarten] to [grade] 12," she says. "Other than that, there are symposiums, workshops, food collections, walks and runs and so forth."

Hunger, Young says, is the immediate result of poverty, in which a variety of social and economic factors come into play.

"There is always a gap between the rich and the poor both in the United States and around the world. That gap seems to be growing," she says."Why are there poor people in the midst of abundance? Being elderly is certainly a big problem. Single women household is a problem. The changing labor market creates the problem. What's happening now (in the economy) is affecting not just the poor, but all of the society."

World Food Day is every day for World Hunger Year, an organization that responds to the emergency food needs of poor and hungry Americans. Known by its acronym, WHY connects needy individuals with local food assistance programs such as food stamps, and school breakfasts. President Tim Ogborn says WHY has also been working with a number of local groups and international non-governmental organizations to address what it sees as the underlying systemic problems at the root of hunger. On World Food Day, Ogborn says, WHY and its partners are launching a National Call to Action to end the global food crisis:

"This call to action asks, for one, that we stabilize prices for farmers and consumers globally by regulating the finance sector so that it cannot enter into the food sector in the way it has," he says. "(It also proposes) establishing and strengthening strategic food reserves, suspending the international trade investments in industrial-scale bio-fuels, reforming our food-aid policies, and expanding fair trade rather than what has been the policy of the federal government to expand free trade. We want to re-balance the power in the food system, and reduce the political influence of agribusiness corporations on public policy."

Ogborn says this call to action – a project WHY calls 'Step Up to the Plate' – also draws attention to the importance of environmentally-friendly agriculture.

"We need to move toward making agriculture more environmentally sustainable, through focusing on supporting family farming, with agro-ecological practices," he says. "We need to direct state and national foreign policies around the world toward investing more in agro-ecological farming rather than agro-industrial which has been the practice the last 30 years or so. There is more and more evidence around the world that sustainable agricultural systems not only are good for the environment, but they are more productive per unit-area than traditional industrial forms of agriculture."

Ogborn says the current world food crisis – with more than 900 million people in the world chronically short of food – will only start to improve when society looks at food not as a commodity but as a right. He says every crisis presents an opportunity. The current crisis, Ogborn believes, can be the opportunity to redesign food systems in ways that foster social and economic justice, and that move the world closer to the elusive goal of ending poverty and hunger.