Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Food for the Hungry

Earlier this month I wrote about the problem of domestic hunger in the U.S. Today I am writing about the problem of hunger in the poorer countries of the world and about combating that serious and ongoing problem.
For a long time I have been a supporter of the organization known as Food for the Hungry. FH was founded in 1971 and has for many years been an international organization. FH/Japan was formed in 1981, and for many years Eisuke Kanda was the head of it.
In the 1980s, we invited Kanda-sensei to be the Christian Focus Week speaker at Seinan Gakuin University, and I was able not only to get to know him personally but also to hear firsthand about the good work FH/Japan was doing overseas. (Domestic hunger has not been much of a problem in Japan for quite some time.)
Last month I was in Cambodia and spent some time with Hwang Ban-suk, a Korean missionary who is partially supported by, and thus who works with, Korea Food for the Hungry International. I was also impressed by Troeun Nhao, the Cambodian man who works with Hwang and KFHI.
In response to the chronic hunger problem in Cambodia, especially in the rural areas, Hwang literally and directly supplies food for the hungry. He takes bread to malnourished children several times a week.
Mrs. Hwang is a volunteer kindergarten teacher in a small school on the outskirts of Siem Reap, the city where Angkor Wat attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists yearly. I was told there are some 600 hotels and “guest houses” in Siem Reap. Numerous Western and East Asian restaurants line the main roads through the city.
But just a few miles out of town, most people live in poverty. For some families, their yearly income is no more than a party of four spends for one dinner at one of the Japanese or Korean restaurants in town.
On my first full day in Siem Reap, I helped distribute food at the school where Mrs. Hwang teaches, handing out bread to the children who lined up and thankfully received what we gave them.
For a long time, though, I have thought that even more than helping those who are hungry now, attention needs to be given to dealing with the causes of hunger. Of course the former needs to be done, but only helping with the present problem of hunger is never enough.
Whether domestically or overseas, it is more important to work toward decreasing hunger in the future than to simply give food to hungry people in the present.
That is a problem with most local food distribution groups. To be sure, they do a good and important work in helping needy people now. But usually they do nothing to help solve the underlying causes of the hunger problem.
Thankfully, Food for the Hungry focuses on both. Hwang is involved in development projects as well as in relief efforts. (I was sorry the language barrier kept me from learning more specifically about what he is doing in working for long-term solutions.)
Part of the needed change in Cambodia is in the mind-set of the people. This seems quite clear from reading Joel Brinkley’s book “Cambodia’s Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land” (2011).
That is why I am glad to support the work of Food for the Hungry, a Christian organization, and the work of Missionary Hwang, now partly centered in New Hope Church, which I wrote about previously.


  1. Thinking Friend Keith, who is also my son, sent the following comment (and permission to post it here):

    "The problem in expecting NGOs to address hunger in the long term is that it involves so many broad issues, from kids per family to education to health care, etc.

    "And on the supply side, issues of expanding production, technology and acceptance of GMOs.

    "Once you get to so many big issues, it’s time to focus on good government!"

    1. In one word, my reply is "Exactly!" -- although I am not sure about the necessity of accepting GMOs.

      Good government is especially a problem in Cambodia, which has had a bad government for a long time.

      National elections were held just this past Sunday, and while the Hun Sen party won again, as everyone expected, their percentage of votes received was down considerably - and the opposition party led by Sam Rainsy is raising serious questions about the legitimacy of the voting.

      Still, as the problems are so big and so complex, it makes you want to just hand out bread and forget about long-range issues.

  2. Thinking Friend Jerry Cain, whom I recently talked with about the subject of today's posting, sent the following comments with permission to post them here:

    "I read your blog on Tuesday after returning from my two hours volunteering at the Kearney Food Pantry where we care for hunger needs in the Kearney School District. Though our operation is a band-aid program to meet the immediate needs of our community, we are aware of your larger concern related to the causes of hunger.

    "Today we will hand out recipes on what to do with the zucchini which is arriving at our door in abundance. Many people threatened by hunger do not know how to cook or what to cook and thus we will make this small effort in education. All materials will be provided for our clients to make a moist zucchini bread or lactose-free zucchini cookies. Our leader, Mary Guall, is brilliant at helping us address hunger needs in rural Missouri."

    1. Jerry, thanks for sharing this. I admire your giving your time as a volunteer in your local Food Pantry, and I am happy you have a good leader helping you and other volunteers address hunger needs in rural Mo.

  3. I think what you say is very important, especially regarding the long-term solutions needed for hunger. I would have to say, however, I can't imagine anything more important than feeding the currently hungry.