No Food and Limited Food


No Food and Limited Food

Matt Williams

There is a dimension of global hunger that easily resonates in the minds of the students doing the 30 Hour Famine: no food is a bad thing.  One of the reasons it resonates is because of the photos and information shared by World Vision.  All you have to do is see the images of a starving child feebly trying to eat some Plumpy Nut to understand the devastation of hunger.  Another reason it resonates is because of the fasting the student undertake themselves.  They experience how quickly the lack of food starts to impact their bodies after just 30 hours, and it makes it easy for them to feel for others with no food.

But here is a concept that is harder for students to grasp: limited food can be a bad thing too.

After returning from a World Vision trip to Ecuador, I naturally shared stories and photos from my trip with our youth group so they could better understand all the different ways their Famine funds were used.  After sharing some pictures from one village high in the Andes Mountains, one student with a very puzzled expression looked at me and said, “I don’t understand… those people don’t look like they are starving.”

She was right.  The people that we met and the kids that we played with were not starving.  There were no distended bellies.  There were no desperate parents.  There was no stack of food bags waiting to be distributed.  My pictures were very different from what this one student expected to see, and she was not sure how she felt about that.  It was not until I shared the menu from the “feast” that the local villagers shared with us that the student began to understand.

To celebrate our visit a feast was prepared, and people from many villages brought things for the feast, just like family members coming to Thanksgiving dinner or a big reunion might do in the United States.  We were each served two types of potato, and half an ear of corn.  There was an onion and herb “salsa” and a dish of beans to share.  And as honored guests, we each had a small piece of salted meat.  This simple fare was the best these villages could muster.  And frankly, our bellies were full: eating two potatoes has that effect!

Yet the people in this region survived on that menu: corn, potatoes, beans and onions.  Day in, and day out.  Not much more.  It was enough to prevent starvation… but not malnutrition.  You can live on potatoes, but it is not a healthy diet.  We took another look at my photos, and I asked my students to look again at the pictures.  Then they started to see things they missed before: the fact that our team from the United States was much taller and stronger than the local people; that the local people exhibited evidence of past injuries that did not heal well; that many of the kids had signs of eye and skin problems.  And that is when they began to understand that limited food is a bad thing too.

I then shared the work that was being done in World Vision to help communities like the one I visited.  For these villages, World Vision can identify new crops that will thrive in the region and add nutritional diversity.  World Vision can introduce chickens, goats, and other livestock to bring a stable supply of eggs and milk.  In short, just as World Vision can intercede to fight starvation, they intercede around the globe every day to fight malnutrition and hunger-related diseases too.

So as you are undertaking your 30 Hour Famine, remember that you are doing far more than fighting the urgent starvation that comes from having no food.  You are helping people to find and develop healthy and sustainable foods for the long run.  And it is this sustained effort in villages in Ecuador and Thailand and Mali and elsewhere that we will one day be able to eliminate hunger around the globe.