We’re living in an era of great technological enlightenment. We have the capability to push a little button and communicate with people from the furthest corners of the globe, we have discovered ways to regrow lost or broken body parts using stem cells, we are taking applications to settle Mars, and we have sent a satellite so deep into outer space that it has officially left our solar system, but even with all our grand accomplishments, we still haven’t found a way to feed the 805 million people in the world who don’t have enough food to live a normal life. These are the people living in a famine beyond anything most of us could ever imagine. They are starving to death, and sometimes, with full stomachs.
805 million is roughly 1/9 of the global population. It’s men, women in children living in every village, town, and city in the world. They’re even living in your neighborhood. It doesn’t matter how advanced we have become as a people, we still haven’t found a way to ensure healthy and nutritious food to the millions who need it most.
The question, really, is where do we begin? For me, we have to start at home. With roughly 40% of the country on SNAP benefits, the issue of hunger and nutrition has become more than a problem, it’s an epidemic. As news stations from around the country are devoting all their time to ISIS and Ebola, there are millions of children right here in the good ole USA who have nothing to eat. There are millions of kids going to schools who have cut free lunch programs, have cut free breakfast programs all in the name of national debt, when there are thousands of other programs funding the wealthiest of Americans. For many, these were the only meals the kids have during the day. For many, going to bed has become a part of life.
On top of a clearly broken socio-economic system, we also have something called food deserts. There are areas in which fresh, healthy, and nutritious food is not available for the people who live in the area. Most are in low income urban and rural neighborhoods, but there are also some in America’s suburban neighborhoods. With limited income, lack of transportation, and a lack of healthy food availability, it would seem hopeless.
Though the powers that be have shown that they have little, if any interest in tackling the food crisis, there has been a movement throughout the US to hit the problem where it’s hurt us the most. In our low income communities, in our school, and at our churches, agricultural programs have been popping up targeting those who need it the most. Organizations are bringing agriculture into the classroom like never before, introducing raised beds, green walls, green roofs, hydroponics, and aquaponics, which aren’t just feeding the students, but teaching them everything from the basics of math and science, to personal and communal responsibility. While they might not have enough money to buy the unhealthy food in the cafeteria, they have free access to the food in which they grew.
Community gardens aren’t just for hipsters, anymore. For many Americans, they are a way to beat the system. For usually just a few dollars a plot and a few seeds, anyone who wants access to fresh food can grow their own. Community gardens have a way of bringing people together. Yes, there is always the reward of all the veggies you can eat, but the community building aspect can’t be denied. More community gardens leads to closer knit neighbors, which leads to less crime, less dependance on drugs, and less educational dropouts.
I’m not saying that agriculture is the solver of all problems big and small, but I do believe that making it available to everyone is the biggest step we can take toward a more healthy and just society. Though I know I know I’m going to get a lot of hate mail for saying this, but food is a basic human right. You can have all the money in the world, but once the food supply is gone, you’re going to be begging right along with everyone else.
What do we do with the rest of the world? Well, that’s a little more complicated. We’ll come back to that later.