Saturday, October 01, 2011

Author Sherman Apt Russell: Food Should be a Basic Human Right

(In commemoration of Local Food Month  and Food Day in New Mexico, this October I want to feature people who seek to raise awareness and offer solutions to problems of hunger and poverty and promote nutrition and sustainability.  We will also highlight a number of anti-hunger events).

I want to start with a presentation by writer Sharman Apt Russell, who was the featured speaker at the the Hunger for Knowledge dinner in Silver City, N.M., hosted by the Social Inequality class at Western New Mexico University in the fall of 2010.  Ms Russell is author of the book Hunger: An Unnatural History.

Here are some excerpts of her presentation at WMNU:
I’m going to say briefly why I think there is hunger in America, the land of plenty. I don’t think it’s because we are uncaring as individuals. I think it’s because we have chosen as a society, as a group, not to see food as a basic human right—much as we don’t see health care as a basic human right. And so we haven’t embedded this right into our institutions.

We don’t work to make Food Stamps and WIC and Meals on Wheels wonderfully functional because we are still arguing about whether we should even fund these programs. We don’t work for a livable wage because we haven’t agreed that there should be one. Once we make that decision—once we agree that everyone in America has a right to food—then we will get everyone food just like we get them postal service and electricity and other services that we consider basic to being American. 
Click this blog post to read the full text of her comments.

Incidentally, the WNMU Social Inequality class, taught by Dr. Emma Bailey, will host the 3rd Annual "Hunger for Knowledge Dinner" and Volunteer Center fundraising event  on Nov. 2.  This year's event  will feature a Hunger Expo, a meal, entertainment and an update on the state of hunger in Grant County.  Stay tuned for more details.

Here is more information about the Social Inequality class, which collects and interprets data related to hunger and poverty as part of a Service Learning Project.
Students present their research on hunger statistics in a way most have never seen before. Guests are divided into social classes based on real social statistics for the United States, and their meals reflect their assigned positions of upper, middle, and lower classes. Upper class guests receive multiple courses of high quality foods, while the lowest classes receive small portions of low quality and nutrition. Just like in the U.S., the majority are somewhere in the middle with decent food at decent portions. Participants also hear from speakers who address the themes of hunger and inequality.

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