Working to “De-Naturalize” Hunger – A Message from the Executive Director

August 24, 2016

Rebecca Middleton, Executive Director, Alliance to End Hunger

Rebecca Middleton, Executive Director, Alliance to End Hunger

Rebecca Middleton, Executive Director, Alliance to End Hunger

I was honored to have the opportunity earlier this summer to join a number of anti-hunger advocates and faith leaders from around the globe in Rome for Pope Francis’s address to World Food Programme’s (WFP) executive board. This was an historic moment for many reasons, but what struck me most about the occasion was the Pope’s emphasis on the fact that the world has naturalized – or normalized – the condition of hunger. He charged all in attendance – WFP senior staff including the Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, the member states, and the invited guests – to commit to “de-naturalizing” hunger and to reject the widely held belief that hunger cannot be ended or avoided.

This idea of upending long-held assumptions about the permanence of hunger in our world is particularly relevant as we head toward the first anniversary of the adoption of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals and look to early 2017 and a new President and Congress here in the United States. Can we take the Pope’s challenge to heart and begin to “de-naturalize” hunger? This means thinking in new ways and demanding more from ourselves as well as from our elected officials.

Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger – is a powerful tool because it provides a common framework to talk about the issue of hunger and its related issues both in the U.S. and around the world. While the policies needed in each country vary, from land tenure in many developing countries to improved nutrition everywhere, the universality of the goals and indicators means every country’s progress – including in the U. S. – will be measured on the same scale. This provides incentive for us to look at our domestic food security and nutrition policies in a new light and to encourage our elected officials to take bold action toward the goal of ending hunger by 2030.

The Alliance to End Hunger was founded out of the belief that it will take the combination of public and political will to end hunger. We also believe that 2017 is a pivotal year with a new administration and a new Congress who will make decisions that will either help or hinder our ability to get to the 2030 goal. For this reason, we are part of the steering committee for the Vote to End Hunger coalition – a broad, non-partisan effort to raise the issue of ending hunger with candidates for elected office in the U.S. with a particular focus on national candidates in general and presidential candidates in particular. To date we have over 150 organizations that have signed on to be part of the coalition and are using social media as well as grassroots tools to ask candidates what they would do to end hunger in the U.S. and around the world if they are elected.

We need all of our policymakers to know that ending hunger isn’t a partisan issue nor is it an unattainable goal. It is certainly a complex issue but we know many of the policies that would make an impact in the near term to meeting the immediate need of people who are food insecure as well as in the long term to make sure that everyone who is able can provide food for themselves. We can no longer accept that the condition of hunger is something natural or normal and we must demand more of ourselves and our elected officials.