Feed the world

  • November 27, 2014

Jason Brown was making millions of dollars playing in the NFL when he suddenly quit last winter to answer a call to feed the poor. 

Just 29, he still had years of sports riches in front of him. Instead, he bought 1,000 acres — even though he’d never farmed before — and taught himself enough to produce a first harvest this fall of 100,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and 10,000 pounds of cucumbers. He donated it all to food banks and charities in North Carolina. 

Brown’s methods may be unconventional, but they make him a standard-bearer for the type of solidarity — the universal brotherhood — that Pope Francis has often proposed to battle the individualism and consumerism that infects society. The Pope recently told an international panel of food experts that a key to alleviating world hunger is building solidarity among populations and nations and inspiring people to reach out to one another. “In this way, the aim of feeding the human family becomes feasible,” he said. 

That is the sentiment behind the special section on hunger in this issue of The Register. Solidarity. Reaching out. Working together. Finding the will and the means to ensure everyone on the planet has food on their table. 

Access to food and water is a fundamental human right. But that right is denied daily to some 850 million people. That means 25 times the population of Canada goes hungry every day. Two billion more are undernourished. Food that could feed the poor is often wasted, hoarded, peddled on commodity markets or diverted to manufacture various inedible consumer products. We live on a planet that is more than capable of feeding everyone, yet the United Nations reports that 24,000 people, mostly children, die from starvation each day. 

As a society we must do more. Jason Brown gets it. So do many international Catholic charities, including The Register’s three partners on this project, Chalice, Canadian Jesuits International and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. More than simply providing food to the poor in Asia, Africa and Latin America, these organizations help communities create sustainable farms so they can feed their families. 

World hunger has declined by about 17 per cent in the past quarter century; there has been progress. But it is slow. Governments and industry need to show even greater resolve to separate the issue of hunger from politics and profits. They bear a moral obligation, but they don’t bear it alone. Indeed, if Brown’s rejection of an NFL career demonstrates anything it is that individuals must shoulder greater responsibility and contribute to a solution. 

That doesn’t mean quitting jobs and planting fields. But it does mean doing much more than waiting for governments to feed the poor. The onus is on all of us. 

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