Today we celebrate World Food Day, an opportunity for us to look at how the absence of this most basic necessity shapes the lives of our neighbors and how our individual and collective decisions affect justice in our food system.
In a message this morning to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, called on us to modify our lifestyles and re-educate ourselves about the plight of those in need. His words as Pope have constantly reminded us that we cannot be indifferent to the sufferings of others, and summon us all to “condemn the continuing scandal of hunger and malnutrition in today’s world.”
In this country, a startling one in six Americans struggled with hunger in 2011. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 50.1 million people lived in food insecure households in 2011 (up from 48.8 million in 2010). Of those, 33.5 million are adults (14.5 percent of all adults) and 16.6 million are children (22.4 percent of all children). The USDA report also found that 16.8 million people lived in households that were considered to have “very low food security” – households with the deepest struggles, regularly skipping meals, or cutting the amounts eaten below what is needed. The number of people in this category in 2011 is nearly double the number in 2000.
Catholic Charities USA’s national network of more than 160 member agencies served over 6.5 million individuals in food related services. The majority of these individuals, over 4 million, received services through local agency food pantries which helps individuals and families stretch their limited income or benefits with limited food to feed their families.
This World Food Day, we are asked to seriously address a fundamental tension plainly placed before us earlier this year by Pope Francis:
“A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table.” (Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the 38th Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, June 20, 2013).
In the coming months, as part of CCUSA’s commitment to reducing poverty in America, we will be launching a campaign with Caritas Internationalis, the international coalition of Catholic Charities groups across the globe, to address the issue of hunger and nutrition facing so many people in this country.
More details will follow, but if you have a moment on this World Food Day, take a moment to be thankful for the food you have and remember in prayer those who aren’t as fortunate.