Last week I wrote about the famine in East Africa. But how do we make sense of such catastrophic events with children? How do you explain to your kids—in a classroom or at home—that we have enough food to feed everyone in the world but five million children die of hunger in the developing world every year?
It’s not easy. When my kids’ school hosted a hunger banquet two years ago, we all (parents and teachers) struggled not to feel hopeless or powerless, to provide context and also to go farther in our analysis of solutions than simply “you need to donate to international food agencies” or “donate to the local food bank.” While that might make sense in the short term, much larger and more systemic changes are necessary if we are really going to challenge hunger in our lifetimes.
For some ideas about how to talk about these issues, check out the WFP’s recently revamped website with its excellent resources and country profiles aimed at students and teachers. It’s also got resource links, examples of schools taking action on hunger issues, and classroom activities such as a math exercise in which kids in Grades 4-6 learn about what it’s like to live on less than $2 per day.
I’m also continually adding to my Resource page aimed at teachers and parents interested in the food system, including issues of hunger, malnutrition and food justice. Check it out here.
The Do the Math town hall meeting on Tuesday night was exciting. It was interesting to hear the other participants talk about their experience (remarkably similar to our own) but, for me, the really thrilling part was afterward when Nick asked the 300-strong crowd to divide up into breakout groups and come up with suggestions about how to move forward on this issue.
Frankly, I was skeptical that it would work—I thought that after an hour of talk most people would run for the hills—but three quarters or more of the crowd stuck around and spent 15 minutes talking in groups of 10 about how to change the world. Or at least how to bring attention to the inadequacies of social assistance in Ontario.
There were passionate retirees and articulate young people, people on social assistance and middle class types from the neighbourhood. They offered up ideas from creating community action groups to bringing social assistance recipients into classrooms to break down prejudice and preconceived notions about welfare to spreading the Do the Math campaign across the province. (There will be another, more hand’s-on meeting in 2 weeks to develop the ideas further—check the Do the Math site for details.)
The level of engagement and passion people brought to the issue was inspiring and made me feel very hopeful that change is possible.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, food connects us all. It is an incredible tool to bring people together and, when used for this purpose, to break down inequalities.
Congratulations to the organizers for putting together such an excellent, well-thought-out campaign, and for creating such a hospitable space to engage with this important issue.
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