SEATTLE, Washington — Poverty leads to hunger. When people are struggling to survive, living at or below the poverty line, affording sufficient food becomes extremely difficult. Without access to food and clean water, people are unable to work, creating a cycle of hunger and poverty. This cycle exists all around the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. reports that there are 821 million people living hungry. Understanding how people fall into this cycle is critical in order to formulate sustainable, long-term solutions to fight against global hunger.
The United States and Global Hunger
Feeding America reports that 41 million people in the United States alone still face hunger. One of the common misconceptions that the Borgen Project tries to dispel is that fighting hunger and poverty abroad means ignoring hunger and poverty in our country. John Coonrod, Executive Vice President of the Hunger Project, told the Borgen Project how to reconcile the global fight against hunger through addressing hunger here in the U.S.: “People who are truly fighting hunger anywhere are part of the solution everywhere.” Finding local solutions leads to global solutions.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that over half of survey respondents support a variety of foreign aid measures. About half of these same respondents also said that the U.S. should cut back spending on military and economic aid. Coonrod believes that education and awareness can help motivate people to contribute to the global fight against hunger and poverty.
Americans’ preference for domestic policy measures is reflected in the difference in welfare versus foreign aid expenditures. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. spent nearly $39 billion in foreign aid in 2016, compared with the $1.1 trillion spent on total welfare expenditures. While domestic social issues will almost always take precedence over foreign issues, the U.S. could certainly find some more funds to spend on foreign aid, perhaps from the $582.7 billion defense budget proposed in 2017.
Coonrod believes that awareness is a key element to global change. “Living in the USA, the wealthiest nation on earth, at a time of politically-motivated divisiveness, we need to first educate ourselves about the rest of the world,” Coonrod said. Understanding the root causes of poverty and how it leads to hunger is the first step people can take toward finding meaningful solutions to poverty and hunger both domestically and abroad.
Coonrod believes that if people learn and care about issues such as global inequality, gender discrimination and hunger, then the government would create policies and budgets that reflect these priorities. With a defense budget around 11 times greater than all foreign aid expenditures, advocacy and awareness may help to divert some of these funds from military expenditures to more humanitarian investments. According to Coonrod, the U.S. government should focus its efforts on investing in communities sustainably in order to join the fight against global hunger.
The United States Agency for International Development recently announced its new tactic called the Journey to Self-Reliance. Many aid organizations emphasize the implementation of sustainable aid policies. While these have the potential to be very effective, the support and advocacy from the people of the United States and its government are still necessary. As Coonrad puts it, “Fighting hunger is not a matter of charity- it’s a matter of justice.”
– Erin Grant