Taking steps against hunger

Mar. 10, 2013 @ 04:36 PM

A guest column on these pages Saturday by Joe Moran cited statistics that should be deeply troubling to anyone reading it.

One in eight people on this planet – 870 million people – do not have enough to eat, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

“In our own country the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines nearly 50 million Americans as ‘food insecure,’ or living in ‘food deserts’ within the U.S.,” Moran wrote. “This figure is corroborated by the Bread for the World Institute.

“A 2011 UNICEF report found that 2.6 million children under the age of 5 die every year due to under-nutrition.”

Those numbers are so staggering there is a danger of being both numbed and paralyzed by them. The scope of the problem is too great to comprehend. And what can we possibly do as individuals to chip away at – much less eliminate – such widespread hunger.

It is also easy to be oblivious to those numbers, in a society where for so many of us hunger as a health problem has been overwhelmed by that scourge of modern American life – obesity. Inexpensive – if not always healthy – calories abound.

But that’s not true for everyone in our own city, as we know, and certainly not worldwide.  In vast stretches of the world, death from malnutrition or diseases that easily overwhelm immune systems weakened by hunger is all too commonplace.

The event Moran’s column previewed – and which Moran has worked so tirelessly for years to help organize – is the World Hunger CROP Walk. It’s coming up Sunday, starting at 2:30 p.m. at the Duke Chapel on Duke University’s West Campus. 

The 4.8-mile walk, in its 39th year, is a testimony to the impact that many individuals acting in concert can have. In last year’s event, more than 1,200 walkers raised $150,083, according to the event’s website (http://www.durhamcropwalk.org/)

This year, organizers hope more than 2,000 walkers will raise $180,000 “changing the lives of hungry people in Durham and around our world.”

The point about changing lives in Durham is important – some money raised each year stays in this community. Last year, the CROP Walk distributed $37,561 to Durham charities including Changing a Generation Outreach Ministries, Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC, Genesis Home, Housing for New Hope, Interfaith Hospitality Network, Meals on Wheels, Mt. Calvary UCC Food Pantry, Society of St, Andrew, Threshold, Urban Ministries of Durham, and YO:Durham.

The walk, the website notes, also serves to “celebrate the diversity and generosity of the Durham community.”

As a community, we are proud of those attributes. Sunday’s walk will be an excellent opportunity to display them, and to make a small but meaningful assault on those staggering statistics on how many of our fellow human beings go to bed hungry every night.