Friday, December 16, 2011

Merry Christmas

In Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, two men unsuccessfully attempt to solicit funds for the poor from Ebeneezer Scrooge during Christmas. They tell him, “We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.” This is a season where we pay attention to the stunning disparity between haves and have-nots. Children’s Medical Center, recently reported there are 192,502 children in Dallas County that live below the poverty line. About twenty-eight percent of Dallas County children, or more than 183,000 suffer from food insecurity and inadequate nutrition. Worldwide, 1 billion children live in poverty  640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).  The Director of North Texas Food Bank, Jan Pruitt says, “So what they give us is how we respond to hunger and is the community’s statement of how they feel about hunger.’
            There lots of things we can do to relieve hunger. First of course we can contribute money to those who feed the hungry.  North Texas Food Bank feeds three people for every donated dollar. But there are also new strategies on how to combat hunger. Social entrepreneurs are  using the proceeds of their business towards hunger relief.  I can help a local business and feed hungry people. For every bag of granola sold by Impact Foods, they feed a hungry child. They do this by purchasing  Ready To Use foods. They are typically peanut-based and are blended with micro- and macro-nutrients to take a child from severe malnourishment to a healthy weight in 4-10 weeks.  Nammi Truck, a local food truck donates a portion of t-shirt sales to local food banks.
There are political answers to hunger relief. The best way  to combat hunger is to combat poverty. One way to do this is encouraging local agriculture in developing countries. Bread for the World, a hunger advocacy group touted by Rick Steves, the NPR travel expert, writes that US farm subsidies make it impossible for farmers in third world countries to compete. Reducing poverty therefore requires improving opportunities for small-scale farmers to sell their products at a fair price. So it is crucial to have fair global agricultural trade rules. This isn’t charity, it’s fair policy. We should tell our elected representatives we want fair food policies. We should also tell them that even in this down economy we want to continue to prioritize direct aid for hunger relief.  
Finally, there are ways to relieve hunger that are sustainable. My wife and I have given gifts through Heiffer International. The founder, Dan West, came up with the phrase "not a cup, but a cow." They concentrate giving on livestock, training and extension work, and organizational development, which includes planning, management, record keeping, reporting and evaluation. They are helping people feed themselves.
There’s no end to the demands on our money. Like many small businesses, my income was down this year. Still, despite the current financial crisis in our country, I have plenty. We need to ask ourselves, how do we feel about children that are going to go hungry this Christmas? And then, what are we going to do about it? Merry Christmas.

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