Growing Hope in a Time of Hunger
By Michelle Scott*
June 6, 2008—For many of the world's poor, the food crisis is not looming on the horizon, it has arrived. Food is more expensive, harder to find and more difficult to transport than it has been for decades. In fact, two million more people in the world will go hungry this year than last year.
In response to the deepening need, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has announced a new Global Food Crisis Fund to complement its existing work for food security.
The dimensions of a global food crisis become more alarming every week. Some countries are reducing or eliminating exports of staple foods such as wheat and rice. Others are consuming more than ever before. Rising fuel prices affect everything from the cost to grow food to how much a farmer has to pay to get it to market. Alternative fuels are diverting grain once used to feed people to feed cars and other types of machinery. Unprecedented droughts, floods and other natural disasters have emptied some of the world's bread baskets.
UMCOR is There
In the midst of what is being called a "perfect storm" for a worldwide food crisis, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is there. In many ways, UMCOR has always been there with programs that address the root causes of hunger and poverty.
Helping vulnerable survivors of war or natural disaster become food secure is a key part of UMCOR's work throughout the world. In these days in which staple foods become more and more difficult to obtain, these food security programs are more important than ever.
UMCOR's Sustainable Agriculture and Development Program helps small-scale farmers in Africa learn new techniques for growing their food. At the end of the 13 weeks they know how to grow more food for less money or how to grow and process new-and more nutritious-crops. They forge farmer-to-farmer relationships that often develop into collaborative efforts to help their communities deal with specific issues like irrigation and access to water and market delivery.
All of UMCOR's field offices have food security programs as an element of their work. Examples include:
- In Armenia, UMCOR ensures that children and adults in institutional settings have a nutritious diet.
- In Sudan, UMCOR helps displaced farmers have the seeds, tools and land they need to grow their own food and become less dependent on food aid.
- In Haiti, UMCOR has reintroduced the Creole pig and is helping local communities to raise pigs to supplement their diets.
- In Afghanistan, UMCOR distributes milk-bearing goats help families on the brink to have nutritious milk and warm wool. They sell the excess and improve their income.
- Wherever it works, UMCOR brings a sense of caring to the hungry and means to translate a message of hope into tangible food security.
These are just some examples of the innovative ways UMCOR is helping people who are very vulnerable to become food secure.
Committed to Continue and Grow
"UMCOR will maintain and grow these and other hunger-fighting programs as the food crisis continues," says Sam Dixon, UMCOR's top executive. "But," he adds, "our costs go up as we work to ensure that those we serve do not suffer from hunger and malnutrition. As the crisis deepens, as food costs more, our buying power decreases as do the expenses of paying our global staff." The food crisis has the potential to affect all aspects of UMCOR's programs.
"Increased giving to UMCOR will help us sustain and expand our commitment to the hungry," Dixon said.
How You Can Help
Financial gifts to Global Food Crisis, UMCOR Advance # 3019696 will ensure that these important programs can continue at the same or increased levels as costs and needs continue to multiply. This Advance will also support new programs to help those most vulnerable to hunger because of the crisis.
Reports show that the burgeoning food crisis is here to stay, but with the help of United Methodists everywhere, UMCOR can help hope grow for thousands who might otherwise face life-threatening hunger.
*Scott is the communications director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).