Iowa the Hunger Fighting Capitol of the World

[by Sherry Staub]

Have you  ever wondered what those relief meals that we send to starving people in developing countries taste like?  If you attended the Iowa Hunger Summit in Des Moines on Tuesday, October 12, you no longer have to use your imagination!  The free luncheon served to those attending the conference was made to simulate these meals.  Each person at the table received an entirely different meal, from Amaranth Ugali with Spinach Mchicha (sponsored by the Most Vulnerable Children’s Project) to the “Easy Chew” meal typically served to recipients of “Meals on Wheels.”  It was an interesting experiment in “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” for those of us with access to an abundance of fresh food.

The 4th Annual Iowa Hunger Summit, held in conjunction with the presentation of the World Food Prize this week, was a full day event loaded with informative and inspiring presentations highlighting the problem of hunger at home and around the world.  Speakers from Heifer International, the Heartland Global Health Consortium, the Iowa State University Extension, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and the Alliance to End Hunger, shared statistics and stories that break your heart.

Where else but Iowa would you expect to find a consortium of concerned citizens gathering to discuss the notion of feeding the world?   Iowa has a rich history of organizing aid for hungry people from Herbert Hoover to Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in whose name the World Food Prize is given.  No wonder the keynote speaker characterized Iowa as the “Hunger Fighting Capitol of the World.”  It’s an impressive legacy of which every Iowan can be proud, and should be inspired to extend our own energy on behalf of the hungry in our community and around the world.

What can you do?  Volunteer at a food bank or food kitchen.  Seriously, do this.

Get angry about the fact that 55% of all childhood deaths worldwide are related to malnutrition.  That means they are preventable!  Think about that, over half of all childhood deaths could be prevented with proper nutrition.

Get worked up about the fact that a couple with one child and with one parent working 2 jobs (1 full time, 1 part time) at minimum wage, will still fall below the poverty level!  Hence the term; “working poor.”  Get worked up about the fact that poverty and families at risk with low food security is rising at an alarming 10%/yr.  Food banks, food kitchens, and shelters are all reporting record increases in the need for their services.  This should make us angry. 

What can you do about it?  Does it all seem too overwhelming?  Take Mother Theresa’s words to heart when she was asked how she continued her work in the face of overwhelming need?  She said,  “Always remember: Do the thing right in front of you.”  Open the door of your house, then open the door of your heart.

Sherry Staub volunteers with the Progressive Action for the Common Good Local Foods Initiative, which includes Farm-to-School, and co-facilitates a community garden at St.Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa.

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