It is easier for our minds to project hunger onto foreign countries, believing our own is doing just fine. True hunger is a life or death issue for many across our planet. This is why I have been trying to remove the phrase, “I’m starving” from my vocabulary when I want an afternoon cookie. I’ve never been starving, yet I often forget how blessed I am. Having access to unlimited food is common in college, pushing the realities of famine and starvation to the back of my mind. I need a reminder now and again of the truth about real hunger so the next time I complain that the cafeteria has nothing to eat, I can see how self-centered my stomach really is.
Hunger is one of those fundamental human problems. There is no philosophy to explain it away; it is a carnal pain. We’ve all felt hungry at some point, but in a much different way than 20% of America’s children. A study by the National Center for Children in Poverty shows that one in five children in America lives under the poverty level. Hunger is real in our own American communities, yet often goes unnoticed.
I’ve lived on a college campus for over three and a half years and discovered that one thing is never hard to find: food. Pop-Tarts, Ramen Noodles and granola bars fill dorm room shelves, along with the seemingly unlimited amount of food in the school cafeteria. My friends and I whine over the cafeteria’s lack of options and over-salted soups, but let’s face it—we have access to a buffet of salad, pizza, fresh bread, pasta and ice cream three times a day.
We get the growling in our stomachs when dinner time rolls around, but have we ever truly experienced hunger? I have never had to wonder where my next meal would come from or been too exhausted from hunger to pay attention in school, and most of my friends probably fit into this category as well. As much of a blessing as this is, it’s time to step back and look at my hunger in relation to the other seven billion people in the world.
How should we live and eat knowing that food is a daily struggle for many? Do we give up the school cafeteria? Do we move into poverty to experience the “other” side of hunger? There are no easy answers, but one indirect way to help is to have a better idea of where our food actually comes from.
Two years ago, I tried being a vegetarian for a few months. Cafeteria options were limited, but I didn’t really miss the meat—I missed the ease of eating. Food became a challenge in my otherwise placid life. But should food really be on demand? Step aside Netflix, because Foodflix has arrived! In our Western societies, we are disconnected from the food production system, and in turn disconnected from the highly processed food we put in our mouths. It’s difficult to grow food in college—floor space is hard to come by when competing with last week’s laundry. But what if you bake a loaf of bread, grow some foods over the summer in your parent’s backyard, or start a plot in a local community garden? Experiencing the food-making process helps us see food as more than a made-to-order commodity.
Get some friends and cook a meal. Take some pride in your food. Realize that food takes work to get to your plate. Remember that true hunger exists, and that a grumbling in your stomach is only a taste of the hunger shared by much of the planet.