Whetting appetites for food justice
Canadians urged to fast on October 16
By Josiah Neufeld | Tuesday, September 22, 2009
A poster inviting Canadians to fast on October 16. ARTWORK: ROBERTA FAST
WINNIPEG, MBOn October 16 more than a billion people will wake up hungry and try live their daily lives through the haze and disorientation caused by chronic hunger. Another billion or so people will spend the day consuming more food than their bodies need.
October 16 is the date chosen 30 years ago by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as a day to focus on food justiceWorld Food Day.
This year Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), an organization supported by 15 denominations in Canada that provides food to parts of the world where it's needed most, is urging Canadians to spend World Food Day fasting, praying and considering some of the links between their own consumption and global hunger.
In India 34 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women are underweight, according to FAO statistics. Twenty-eight per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa are malnourished.
In Canada malnutrition is under five per cent, while the average Canadian consumes more than 2,900 calories per person per day38 per cent more than they need for good health, according to the World Health Organization.
These sobering numbers might not surprise us. But what most people don't know, says James Kornelsen, public engagement coordinator for CFGB, is that there's actually enough food in the world for everyone to have enough; the problem is distribution.
Canadians enjoy relatively low food prices, with the average Canadian spending about 10 per cent of his or her monthly income on food, compared to countries where many people spend 80 per cent of their income on food. Much of the food Canadians eat is shipped from other parts of the world. On average, the food on a Canadian dinner table has traveled 2,400 kilometres to get there.
These are a few of the numbers paired with prayers in a beautifully illustrated prayer booklet CFGB created to help observe World Food Day. The prayer booklet and other resources can be ordered for free from CFGB by individuals or churches.
"For Christians it's not just a matter of social responsibility, but also of spiritual importance," says Kornelsen.
Last year a group of students at McMaster University fasted on October 16, breaking their fast with a communion service and a discussion.
"One friend and I fast together once a month," says Erica Roebbelen, a co-leader of the group. "You don't feel like yourself when you don't have food in you. It was kind of a new realization." Struggling to stay focused during class with an empty stomach gave her new idea of the challenges faced by people who don't have enough.
"When you are hungry, it's so hard to be motivated to do anything," Robbelen says. "I'm sure there are lots of hungry out there who if they were well fed and were at their full biological potential could be doing amazing things."
Last year over 500 individuals or churches signed up to observe World Food Day with some kind of fast or reflection and CFGB distributed several thousand prayer booklets.
Read James Kornelsen's column on daily bread for everyone.