Today, Day 21 of 21 Days for World Hunger is also World Food Day. On October 16, 1945, forty-two countries met to create a goal: to free humanity from hunger and malnutrition, and to effectively manage the global food system. Now, 71 years later, World Food Day events taking place in over 150 countries, continue to build awareness about food security while putting into place goals and actions to end hunger for all people, in all places. And this World Food Day is particularly exceptional because the Organic Consumers Association has taken Monsanto to international court at the Hague for crimes against humanity. Learn more about the Monsanto Tribunal here.
Today’s post is focused on activism and the different types of activists as well as tools and tips for everyday actions you can take to become a world hunger activist. All comments and solutions to world hunger are welcomed. There is power in activism. You can change the world.
My made-up word, Humanidietarian is an activist defined as one who exchanges calories for care and consciousness in an effort to reduce the prevalence of world hunger. This on the heels of the Food Justice Diet definition (see yesterday’s post).
Imagine if greed could be transformed into giving. Indulgence into inspiration. Excess into progress. Choices into change. Eating into activism, and calories into communal support. Imagine a world in which no small child had to feel the weakness and dis-ease of hunger and no mother the agonizing angst for her children’s suffering of starvation.
What would happen if every well-fed US citizen were willing to donate one-to-five pounds of body weight in the form of calories to one starving person? This would equal 3600 – 18,000 calories, up to ten full day’s worth of food. This could be accomplished by replacing meat products with whole plant foods which would make a significant impact on the earth, our shared health, and also contribute to the reduction of hunger. To learn more, check out my post Eat Plants.
Activism comes in many different forms. I have a particular affinity for art activists, because art is soul work that connects and moves people on a deeper level. This article looks at art activists who are using their talent to make the world a better place.
The Hip Hop activist DisMissedFit whose artistry emphasizes lyricism and wordplay shares his genius through the song, Just Imagine …This moving piece of poetic brilliance manifested in mere hours after reading a few of my world hunger articles. I’m humbled and thrilled to be sharing Just Imagine ... Listen for a shout-out to me at the end!
Syrian refugee children are getting lost in the thick of political muck. Arriving to countries like Germany, with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs, families are struggling with a loss so great that most could not even begin to comprehend: a fear so profound that fleeing into an abyss of uncertainty to a place they’re not wanted is the only solution, loss of home and every single possession, loss of steady work, loss of routine, loss of friends, loss of family, and loss of dignity.
Children are suffering. Some losing hope and attempting suicide. Activists like my publisher Penny Eifrig, founder of Eifrig Publishing, her teen daughter Saede who is sure to take on the world and win, and the very talented Berlin photographer Daniel Sonnentag, are humanizing Berlin’s refugee children in the touching and stunning series They Have Names. Read their stories here, but be prepared to have your heartstrings pulled.
Locally Grown Food Activists
I put this in the art category, because I think food growing is a craft that deserves art status. Below are some ideas to get (or grow) locally grown food.
- Take a stand for your small-scale farmer and go to the farmer’s market or be a part of your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
- Compost – even for apartment dwellers! Here are general composting tips and tricks.
- Join or start a community garden! Find one near you though the Community Garden Association.
- The organization and movement Grow Where You Are helps people transform urban spaces into lush food oases, provides Agro-Ecology training and life skills workshops to evolve urban dwellers into global stewards. Add to it, they use only veganic gardening meaning no animal products at all including soil amendments.
- If you don’t have access to wholesome, organic, locally grown food, then grow your own. Grow your own! Not enough yard space? Grow anyway! This summer, I put fruit and vegetable plants in any container I could find including half wine barrels and leftover pots from the previous owners of our house.
- Push to make your children’s school lunches more tied into local farmers and local production. Check out Edible Schoolyard in Oakland/Berkeley or S’cool Food Initiative in Santa Barbara county for some good ideas on that front.
- Live in the city? No problem. Check out the site Urban Gardening Help to learn how to grow your own urban garden. You can also learn more about composting to make the most fertile soil possible for your garden.While you’re at it, you can learn more about Clean Air Gardening and the eco-accessories available to help you plant with purpose.
Laptop Activist aka Citizen Lobbyist
A Laptop Activist is one who maximizes on the power of social media and online communication. The Laptop Activist is the person who joins Facebook fan pages, tweets, signs petitions, sends emails to friends and family, sends letters to local, state or federal government administrations, and who spends time writing insightful, proactive, or newsworthy comments on blogs and news sources.
The committed Blacktop Activist is pounding the pavement either through canvassing, rallies, protests, strikes, demonstrations, pamphlet distribution or other forms of getting out there and interacting face-to-face with like-minded or unlike-minded folks. The folks in this group have their boots on the ground to change policies and fight for the rights of others making the world better.
This form of activism, while seemingly more passive, has staying power because the activist speaks though her wallet. Even those who give to causes or passively boycott some businesses while patronizing preferred businesses fall in this category. I consider this the lowest risk form of activism with some of the highest and most powerful returns.
For world hunger, you can be a consumer activist by:
1) boycotting factory farmed and genetically modified foods
2) eating organic and
3) eating more plants
This video shows an interview I had with organic farmer, Chris Hardy and the two actions you can take RIGHT NOW to be an empowered consumer.
You can check out the NonGMO Project to learn more about the ethical organizations who are taking a stand against GM foods, You can also check the NonGMO Shopping Guide to learn more about at-risk ingredients. On the site Food Hacks, the author discusses How to Decode Your Produce.
How to identify organic versus genetically modified produce using the PLU codes:
- Organic: five digit code that starts with a #9 means the items is organic
- Conventionally grown produce: four digit code usually beginning with a #3 or #4
- Genetically modified produce: five digit code that starts with an 8 means the item is genetically modified, BUT there is no requirement for GM Foods to be labeled. They may be labeled as conventionally grown. Until there is a law stating that GM foods must be identified, the consumer remains at risk. The nonGMO shopping guide can help you understand which products to avoid. In the meantime, VOTE for any law that requires labeling of genetically modified foods and ingredients. As consumers, we have a right to know.
I was appalled to receive a catalog from Heifer International. Not only do we strive to eliminate paper mail at our household, but to receive a glossy catalog from an organization I abhor is, well, offensive. This is an organization that I have never, do not ever, and will never give my money to. Giving an animal to someone living in poverty is not a gift. It certainly is not sustainable, and it does not help reduce world hunger no matter how much Heifer International falsely claims so. That animal takes food out of the family’s mouths, requires land that could be used to grow food, and requires water that should be going to the family. Everyone suffers – the humans and the animal. Besides the inputs required are not available to satisfy the animal, anyway. Read more about the many compelling arguments for not gifting animals for so-called hunger relief here.
Instead consider sustainable giving through programs dedicated to providing solutions to hunger with the added bonus of not exploiting animals. My top picks:
- A Well-Fed World
- International Fund For Africa
- Fruit Tree Planting Foundation
- Sustainable Harvest International
- Plenty International
- Food Empowerment Project
My Food Justice Diet Experience – What I Lost and What I Gained
During the last three weeks I spent about 95% of my waking, nonworking hours researching and writing about world hunger. During that time, in solidarity with those living in hunger, I ate a reduced calorie diet, mostly just one meal a day. I also eliminated processed foods and sugar save for some nondairy milk (hemp, unsweetened) and a Starbucks vanilla bean steamer indiscretion. Otherwise, the food I ate was whole, clean, plant-based sustenance. And I felt pretty darn good.
During these three weeks I heard stories of mothers who would forgo their meals so their children could eat. Of families who have to ration their food to assure they could eat tomorrow or the next day after. Children who would have to skip a day or two, or three, because the food simply didn’t exist. While I haven’t been to a restaurant for about a month, I have images of people gorging themselves on portions that could feed an entire hungry family. The disparity between my reality is shocking in comparison to the realities of those nearly 1 billion hungry people. And I lead a fairly simple life sans glamour and extravagance.
Physically and mentally I semi-transcended the reduced calorie diet habituating to one meal (albeit hearty) a day with 2 Brazil nuts in the morning and a sometimes-banana in the afternoon on work days. But the Tasmanian devil in my head awakened, each night, the moment I lay down to sleep. It was a mental conspiracy against my health and well-being. The diminished sleep has been harder than the decreased energy caused by the reduced caloric intake. Surprisingly, my energy has been fairly decent, much better than when I did this in 2010. But the two combined – fatigue and reduced calories – have been a real challenge. And the pressure…how do I explain it? I made a commitment to this experience. I forgot how taxing it would be. I also have a sense when I read back through these 21 posts after I rest up; I’m going to think huh? There were days I wrote in a daze. Thank the gods and goddesses for my outstanding Mr. Pepper, who helped edit and prepare food, take care of our Stella, and keep the house in order. I sure do love that guy.
Despite the 36,396 words I wrote, there are important topics I didn’t discuss. So, keep an eye out for the book one day hopefully sooner than later! Fingers crossed.
What I lost:
- A lot of sleep
- Mental functioning
- Mornings, afternoons, evenings, & nights
- About 6.5 pounds
- My desire for Red Hot Blues tortilla chips, chocolate, and processed foods (which incidentally results in reduced package waste)
- My drive. It’s like my drive drove off a cliff several times throughout the day.
- Any semblance of organization on my desk and computer desktop
- My routine “normal” life – I published yesterday’s post at about 10 minutes to midnight while everyone else was sound asleep. My normal was stressfully redefined.
- Time with the wonderful Mr. Pepper and Stella
What I gained:
- A greater respect for people who dedicate their lives to helping others rise out of poverty
- A renewed respect for people who have a daily writing deadline
- Insight into myself
- Insight and perspective into others less fortunate than I
- A growing desire for hash browns – tomorrow the two Mr. Peppers (husband and father-in-law) are taking me out to breakfast for…wait for it…hashbrowns!
- Motivation several times throughout the day
- A desire to help more
- A need to stay on a whole food diet, because it feels better
- Appreciation for my friends and family who took time out of their days to read, or comments, or email me with expressions of support
- Appreciation for those whose lives are in turmoil and will do whatever they can to survive
- The knowledge that the problem of world hunger is bigger than I could possibly detail in only three weeks
Here’s another shout-out to all those experts who helped me with this project. It brings me great comfort knowing you exist in this world – reaching out and offering your compassion and expertise to alleviate the suffering of those in need.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
I’d like to end with a song that moves me every time. It’s IZ‘s haunting and inspiring version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. IZ was a man who had a voice like a tranquil sea – peaceful, rich, and mesmerizing. His unnecessary and untimely death at the age of 38 from obesity-related respiratory failure is sad and unsettling. This video shows a “paddle out” of loved ones memorializing IZ’s life.
A few years ago when we were living in Mexico, I taught this song to a group of teenagers as part of an English lesson. One of the most heartfelt sounds I’ve ever heard was listening to these kids, in their beautiful broken English, earnestly singing this song. When I hear it now, I’m reminded of the goodness in the world.
When tillage begins, other arts
follow. The farmers, therefore, are
the founders of human civilization.
In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.
~ Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist
The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.
former governor of Wisconsin, co-founder of Earth Day
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
One farmer says to me, “You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with;” and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle.
~ Henry David Thoreau
To read other posts in this series, click click click the links. Please share your comments!
Day 1: The Food Justice Diet
Day 2: Alarming and Curious Statistics
Day 3: Finish Your Plate, There are Children Starving in Ethiopia
Day 4: The Nameless Hungry
Days 5-6: “Where Does She Get Her Protein??”
Day 7: One Small NGO Making a Big Impact in Ethiopia
Day 8: The Language of Hunger
Day 9: Plenty of Soy Solutions in Latin America
Days 10-11: Can Small-scale farming feed the world?
Day 12: Why Organic Farming?
Days 13-14: The Have and Have-Nots of Southeast Asia
Day 15: Have You Eaten Today?
Day 16: Hunger in America
Days 17 & 18: Hunger’s Dirty Little Secret
Day 19: Eat Plants
Day 20: Watch This, Read That
Day 21: The Power of Activism