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Shutdown Could Increase Hunger

October 2013

Amid all of the focus on the shutdown of the U.S. government, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had some good news: the number of chronically hungry people all over the world has dropped by 26 million. Still, hunger in both the United States and around the world remains high.

According to the recently released “State of Food Insecurity in the World” report, 842 million people were estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger, or regularly not getting enough food, in 2011-2013. In a previous report, the number was 868 million.

“Globally, fewer children are going to bed hungry and fewer families are worrying where their next meal will come from, but the rate of hunger around the world remains unconscionably high,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

Beckmann added that the U.S. government shutdown and proposed cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), poverty-focused development assistance, and food aid will only increase hunger. In the United States, 49 million people, including one in five children, often struggle to put food on the table.

“Substantial progress has been made, but it is fragile progress,” said Beckmann. “Sudden changes in food prices could lead to a setback, as was the case in 2008. And any decrease in foreign assistance due to brinkmanship in Congress and the government shutdown will have devastating results worldwide and could throw millions of people back into chronic hunger.”

The FAO report noted that despite the overall decrease in global hunger, some countries continue to suffer from unacceptably high undernutrition rates, as indicated by the proportion of children who are stunted. Stunting is a condition resulting from long-term undernourishment, and is a more severe measure of chronic hunger.

The report also indicated that if past trends continue and additional efforts to reduce hunger are implemented through enhanced safety nets and investments in agriculture, the number of hungry people could be cut in half by 2015. If this happens, the world will meet the first Millennium Development Goal.

“We are at a point in history where we can end hunger in our time. We have the ability to carry out Christ’s mission of feeding all of our brothers and sisters,” Beckmann said. “We must remind our leaders that they must set aside partisan politics and work together to protect the moral and economic stability of our nation and our world.”

He added that the reduction in the number of hungry people globally would not have been possible without the ardent advocacy of Bread for the World members and partners.

Photo: Mary, 3, plays in the trees near her home in Kamuli, Uganda. Her aunt, Jane Sebbi, farms matoke and other vegetables near these trees. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

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