Every Sunday morning, when I walk down the steps of my downtown church and cross the street to the parking lot, there’s an elderly man on the sidewalk holding a sign that reads “Hungry.” He paces back and forth, rubbing his stomach and looking at us with beseeching eyes.
Since I can’t just smile and walk past, I’ve taken to sticking a granola bar in my pocket and handing it to him. I can tell by his reaction that’s not what he really wants from me. What’s more, I can’t believe he’s really hungry, since he’s only blocks away from several homeless shelters that routinely offer meals.
I see them often, on many intersections, those people holding a cardboard sign. So do you. Right or wrong, I’ve become jaded as to how destitute they really are.
Then my wife comes home from work. She’s the principal at a very large elementary school of nearly 700 kids, many of whom are what the school district politely classifies as “low SES.” Translated, that means low socio-economic status. To you and me, that means they’re living at or below the poverty line.
She tells me of a program called Snak Pak 4Kids, which identifies school children who don’t have anything to eat over the weekend, and sends them home every Friday with a sack full of food. It includes peanut butter and recently, thanks to members of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Elanco Animal Health and dairy farmers, a beef stick and carton of shelf-stable milk.
My wife drags me along when she goes to the warehouse to help stuff the bags. She tells me of the remarkable difference it makes in those kids’ ability to focus, learn and succeed.
I try to attend a few school functions when I can. I see those kids, and my heart melts.
In spite of the charlatans, hunger is real. It’s real where I live and it’s real where you live. The cure is both simple and complicated. It’s complicated because the roots of poverty and hunger run deeper in our culture and society than I can dig up and chop apart. If I could cut those roots, chain the stump and rip the problem out of those kids’ lives forever, I would. But I can’t. Not by myself.
Simmons wants to change the dialog. First, he wants to change the discussion from hunger to food security. He defines food security as when food is no longer an issue and he says now, when we’re living “between the 7 and the 9,” is perhaps the best time ever to be in the beef business.
Living between the 7 and the 9 means the global population hit 7 billion people a few years back and is projected to hit 9 billion by 2050, where he anticipates it will level out. However, a more significant number, he says, is 3. During that same time frame, 3 billion more people will enter the middle class.
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Those 3 billion people will want to upgrade their diets. That means the world will need 60% more animal protein—meat, milk and eggs. And we’ll need to increase our production more efficiently, using fewer resources. In many developing countries, technology for humans and animals alike can simply be clean water, a vaccination and food to eat.
According to Simmons, 25,000 kids die worldwide every day from starvation and disease brought on by polluted water. Think about that. That many kids would fill almost 36 schools like the one my wife runs.
And collectively, they’re just one of the faces of food insecurity. Many of those faces live in your town, go to school with your kids or grandkids.
However, there’s the 1% vocal, anti-technology fringe who want to prevent those children from being able to meet their basic survival needs—adequate food and drinkable water. And the vocal fringe flood chat rooms and social media with their deadly poison.
That’s where the Enough campaign comes in. Technology is not just important; it is absolutely, critically and completely necessary if we’re to fulfill our moral and humanitarian obligations as humans and as food producers. By providing information and encouraging social media use, those of us who understand that can change the direction of the dialog.
Go to www.sensibletable.com. Sign up for the Enough initiative. Then do what you can to change the dialog so people understand that we have the answers to provide food security in a hungry world.
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