Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Common Thread for Hunger in El Salvador and the U.S.

How does one summarize hunger and food insecurity in one minute? Better yet, how do you use that one minute (or 67 or 72 seconds) to draw parallels between the hunger in the United States and hunger in El Salvador?

The time constraints were necessary because the organizers of the annual commemoration of Archbishop Óscar Romero on Monday had to pack in four different themes--including environment, education, immigration and U.S. foreign policy, and food insecurity--into the program.  So participants did their best to offer the big picture in a concise manner. 

So what is the common thread affecting food insecurity in the U.S. and El Salvador?  One is a rich country, and the other not so rich.  And yet, there are problems of hunger and poverty--all tied to allocation and use of wealth. In El Salvador, a few people control the wealth.  Consider this quote from a recent article in Revista Envío.

The Gini Coefficient, which measures the level of income inequality, places El Salvador among the 20% of countries with the highest inequality. In real terms this means that El Salvador’s richest 20% receive 56% of the income, while the poorest 20% receive only 3%, almost 14 times less.  Here is the full article.

Yanira Coto Cruz, a high school student from a small community in El Salvador, alludes to this very income disparity in her one-minute presentation (which I reprinted below). Yanira is one of several young people in El Salvador who have benefited from scholarships provided by the Asociación para la Promoción de los Derechos Humanos de la Niñez en El Salvador (APRODHENI).  Those scholarships are funded in part by benefactors in the U.S., including some members of Aquinas Newman Center in Albuquerque.

Alimentación y Justicia en El Salvador
Yanira Coto Cruz

La falta de alimentación es uno de los problemas más grandes afectando a muchos países del mundo. Dentro de ellos se encuentra El Salvador, por la falta de trabajo y no tener un salario fijo, donde no se puede cubrir los gastos de alimentación en el hogar, y por esa razón hay muchas familias que no tienen como alimentar as sus hijos.

Hoy en día, por lo general, hay niños con problemas de desnutrición, por no tener alimentación adecuada. Es aquí donde podemos ver la injusticia que viven muchas familias pobres en nuestro país. Ya que son solamente unos pocos los han ocupado toda la riqueza, teniendo un buen trabajo, un buen salario y muchas propiedades.

Es injusto ver como el rico cada día se enriquece más, y el pobre cada día se muere de hambre.

 66 Trillion Dollars
 Carlos Navarro

According to U-S Federal Reserve Bank the net worth (household wealth) of the United States surpassed $66 trillion by the end of 2012. How do you even begin to measure $66 trillion? For our purposes this evening, we don’t have to come up with any examples to quantify this staggering amount. We just need to know that we are wealthy country.

We also know that, unlike some places around the world, we have enough food to feed everyone who lives within our borders.  Almost everywhere you go, supermarket store shelves are stocked to the ceiling. (That is, if there is a supermarket in your neighborhood--but that's another story).

So with this amount of wealth in our country and so much food available, how is it that 14.5 percent of the households in the United States are not able to put food on the table? More than 48 million Americans, including 16.2 million children, live in these households.

And the problem has worsened in recent years: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of people at risk of hunger increased from more 36 million 2007 to more than 50 million in 2011.

Since 2006, food banks—including Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque--have seen a nearly 50 percent increase in clients seeking emergency food assistance.

In these times of budget austerity, the Congress is talking about reducing or eliminating the safety-net programs available to those who suffer from hunger.  Many times the people who receive public assistance are labeled as lazy or unmotivated.

But we cannot talk about ending hunger without addressing one of its main root causes: poverty. More than one in seven Americans—including nearly one in four children—live below the poverty line. Many times these folks have to choose between paying their heating or water bill or buying food.

In a country whose net worth is $66 trillion, families should not have to make these choices.

Read more about this issue in A paradox of plenty – hunger in America by Reuters columnist Bernd Debusmann.  The piece was written in 2009--but the information is more relevant than ever.

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