Hunger at Home and in Chad

Today, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) is holding a food drive to benefit hungry people who get food from the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

Our family is dropping off cans of food to help the cause.  You can read more about this event at the NCSSM Food Drive Facebook page (pictured below).

food drive

I visited the website for the Food Bank, and it says that within the 34-county area served by the Food Bank, “more than 560,000 people live at or below the poverty level: 191,000 are children. 40% of those we serve have had to choose between food and paying for utilities. 33% have had to choose between food and paying rent or mortgage.”

There’s a 2-minute video that shows an animated girl named “Hungry Kate” to personalize the problem.

This is a great effort, and I look forward to seeing how much food folks at NCSSM are able to collect.  The goal is to get to a total of more than a million pounds of food donated (over the past four years). In 2011 alone, NCSSM collected more than half a million pounds of food and set the Guinness World Record for food donation in a single day.

Broadening from North Carolina to the US, there may be more than 50 million people in the US today who are hungry, according to the Feeding America website.  If that is an accurate number, that’s one in six Americans (the US population is around 315 million, according to the Census Bureau)

world pop

If we look at the world population of more than 7 billion, we see that the US makes up less than 5% of the world’s population.  What does hunger look like outside the US?

I did a quick Google Search for “world hunger” and found this chart:

world hunger

If we think about this for a moment, the people making this global chart must use different numbers than the people at Feeding America, because Feeding America says 50 million people in the US are hungry, and the chart above says that in all the developed countries (which includes the US and most of Western Europe) there are only 19 million hungry people.

So this would be a good question for exploration — how many people in the world are “hungry” and how do different organizations define “hunger”?  Finding a reasonable range of answers (I’m sure different groups approach the issue in different ways) would take some research and would be worth doing.  That’s the sort of work we will do at TLC middle school. We will find topics that interest students, and pursue those topics in some depth.

Part of the role of the teachers at TLC is to help provide a global context.  So when students get excited about local food drives, we should support those efforts, as my family is supporting NCSSM’s drive now.  But we should also push students to see the global picture, of which the US represents less than 5%.

The title of this post mentions hunger in Chad, which I happened to read about this morning because of this re-tweet from Nicholas Kristof:

kristoftweet

<start twitter aside>

If you’re not using Twitter yet, please see my previous posts about Twitter’s value.  I’ve written about it as a great was to find resources and connect with people. I’ve also written about the value of Twitter in three earlier blog posts:

<end twitter aside>

In any case, when I clicked on the link in the tweet from Lydia Polgreen (who I’m now following on Twitter), I read tha article she mentioned, which led me to an earlier article, titled

LACK OF FOOD STUNTS CHAD CHILDREN, DAMAGES MINDS

This is one of the most powerful articles I’ve read in a while about the effects of hunger.  You should click on the link and read it.

Here’s an excerpt from the article, which starts by describing a little girl struggling to trace a circle:

Drawing a circle is considered a developmental marker. It tests fine motor skills, the use of the small muscles that control the fingers, allowing us to eat spaghetti with a fork or cut a piece of cardboard with scissors. Children who are developing at a normal rate can trace a circle by age 3, and Achta doesn’t look much older.

She is so small that you can hoist her up on one hip easily, as her mother sometimes does when she carries her to school. She is so small that when she sits on her bunk in class, her feet dangle a foot off the ground.

But Achta isn’t three. School records show she is 7 years old.

In this village where malnutrition has become chronic, children have simply stopped growing. In the county that includes Louri, 51.9 percent of children are stunted, one of the highest rates in the world, according to a survey published by UNICEF.

Students in the Triangle need to learn about hunger in their own backyard, and efforts like the food drive at NCSSM today and efforts in general by the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina are a great place to start.

But we need to get a global perspective as well — the video about “Hungry Kate” notes that  Kate seems like an ordinary girl, but that her parents may have lost their jobs and her family may be in danger of losing their house to foreclosure:

kate

It’s important, though, to consider all the community resources available in the US to help people like Kate. The video explains that the food people donate gets sent to community agencies that help people in need:

community

By contrast, there’s little infrastructure in many parts of Africa, such as Chad, and as a result, there’s nobody to help people who are hungry, and so we see stunted growth in children, which can look like this:

hunger

 

What we would do at TLC middle school is to read and discuss the powerful article about how a lack of food stunts children’s growth and damages their minds.  We would locate Chad on a world map, and get a sense of where the village of Louri is located.  We would try to empathize with families living there.

We would then take time to reflect on the article. Each student (and the teachers) would write a bit about what he/she learned.  We won’t always publish what we write at TLC, but we will spend time thinking about both the local and the global.  That’s part of what it means to be an empathetic global citizen.

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About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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