World Hunger

Introduced: December 06 2011

IWD Member Alyson offers her perspective on hunger as it exists in our own neighborhoods -- and around the world to the crisis in the horn of Africa.


Seeing local hunger
This weekend, I volunteered at our local food pantry (in a suburb of Chicago). Last year, I was there the Saturday before Thanksgiving & it was the biggest day of the year. This year, they set a new record (sadly), serving 359 families (normally it's around 200).

For some reason, this year, I was especially moved by the needs of my neighbors. I was at the front of the line and several people said, "Sorry, this is my first time here" apologizing in their time of need. When I started volunteering, I was concerned that food pantries created dependency, but I found out that the majority of people that use the food pantry only as a temporary stop-gap measure, not as  a constant crutch.

Since 2009, the pantry has seen a 26% increase in families served (which increased from 2008 as well). Last month, I received a letter saying that they had to reduce the number of zip codes that they serve due to the double whammy of increased demand and rising food prices. I am sure your local food pantry is in the same situation.

Learning about Famine in the horn of Africa

I also recently attended a luncheon featuring USAID (US Agency for International Development) Administrator Rajiv Shah. He is an inspiring man, probably mid-to-late 30s, with an MBA and MD. He is making some good changes in an important agency (even though they receive less than 1% of the federal budget). He spoke about the famine in the horn of Africa - I attended because I had heard a bit about it but didn't know much and wanted to learn more. Here are some statistics to note:


The crisis in the horn of Africa is like no other: killing, starving or displacing over 13 million people. (For perspective, the earthquake in Haiti killed 3 million people)


These 13 million people are in the middle of the worst drought in 60 years, the worst famine in 20 and nonstop violence.


In Somalia, where the conditions are the worst, one child dies every 6 minutes.


There is hope. The U.S. has provided over 50% of the relief efforts and they have made strides since July in Ethiopia and Kenya. In addition to emergency food aid, vaccines, USAID has supported long-term solutions: helping with access to water, promoting drought tolerant crops and improving nutrition. However, the situation is still dire in the most vulnerable parts of Somalia - where it is estimated than an additional 750,000 could lose their lives.


What you can do

Be extra thankful this season for food, family and good health.


Help save a life of someone you may never meet and donate to the relief efforts in the horn of Africa.


A $10 donation can help feed a child for 10 days. USAID has created a relief campaign called FWD - Famine. War. Drought. Relief. Learn more or donate at:


Help your neighbors and donate to your local food bank or pantry. Canned goods are great, $ even better. You can find your local food bank through Feeding America's website: and local food pantries by googling "food pantry" and your city. You can also volunteer your time to help, food pantries and food banks require a lot of work and labor and they could use your help.