Friday, October 2, 2009

This Month's Cause: Hunger

First off, my standard disclaimer (that is, it is standard for me to start with a disclaimer, not that I have a standard disclaimer): Hunger is a HUGE issue.  I will not even attempt to address all of the facets of hunger this month.  Hopefully, in future months I will be able to return to this issue and look at it from additional perspectives.

On the very very micro level, there is the issue of an individual's ability to access (healthy) food, the barriers to it, and the effects of hunger.

On the less micro, but still pretty micro level, are issues of food supply.

On the local policy level, there is the question of what communities and governments can do to alleviate hunger.

On the national level, there are policy questions involving federal benefits, agriculture subsidies, international trade... There are national organizations working to increase awareness of hunger issues and to support local organizations that are working on the ground level.

And on the global level, there are issues of poverty and food supply well beyond the scope of the individual and community here at home.

This month, we will look at hunger no more broadly than locally.  I will highlight some organizations that are doing great things here in DC, and perhaps some local organizations in other cities.  (Do you have a favorite? Leave a note in the comments, or send me an email!)  I'll talk about some of the policy options that I know about and learn about over the course of this month.  And we'll try to have a contest.

Hunger is, of course, related to poverty.  So there may be some facts and figures about poverty thrown about this month, even though the broader issue of poverty is not our cause of the month. 

And now, a few quick notes to introduce you more to the issue of hunger, especially here in DC.* 
  • There is generally a correlation between high-poverty urban areas and lack of supermarkets.  In DC, there are only 3 supermarkets "East of the River" in the quarter of the city with the highest poverty density.
  • Lack of access to healthy food increases medical risks such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.  
  • When a student is hungry, it is harder for her to concentrate in school, so she will do poorly in school and might also have behavior problems.  (I can vouch for this one.  When I've gone to work while fasting, my concentration is totally shot, I whine, and it is only my adult self-control that keeps me from going completely off my rocker.)
More to come.

* You will note that these are all assertions and assumptions without citations.  I need to be ready to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot in less than 2 hours, so I'm feeling particularly lazy.  You'll note that this is a trend of mine.

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