Because I can. More importantly, because I want to

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“I’m not doing my philanthropic work, out of any kind of guilt, or any need to create good public relations. I’m doing it because I can afford to do it, and I believe in it.”

George Soros

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Photo by dekalegitarist.

The Food Crisis in Greece Reaches Critical Levels

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“Hunger is insolent, and will be fed.”

Homer

I am Greek, by marriage only.  Or so I’ve always thought.  Recently, I discovered that half of my maternal ancestors were of Greek origin.  Perhaps this explains my affinity for the country, the people, and the food.  For me, Greek food equals abundance, a Mediterranean feast of savory and sweet delicacies that make you want to loosen your belt, and throw any notion of dieting out the window.  After all, the Greek diet is one of the healthiest in the world.  I swear by it.  So, when I see the hunger and starvation that is spreading like an insidious virus throughout Greece, it makes me sick in my heart.

Nationwide, children are fainting from malnourishment and suffering chronic, painful bouts of hunger cramps.  A nation of proud and feisty people are being brought to their knees.  Not just the poorest of poor, or the working class… but, also the middle class.  Yet another country that is seeing its middle class disappear below the poverty line.

The Greek Orthodox Church feeds approximately 55,000 people per day and the soup kitchens are at full capacity, distributing an estimated 7,000 meals to people… just in Athens alone.

If it is indeed true that there’s reason to celebrate because the recession in Europe is coming to an end, Greece certainly hasn’t been invited to the party.

With every severe economic crisis, extreme conditions inevitably breed extreme behaviors. Not surprisingly, violence, domestic abuse, theft, vandalism and prostitution are at an all-time high in Greece.  However, on the other end of the spectrum, the outpouring of kindness and generosity from within Greece and from other countries has been heartwarming. Throughout the country, families are helping other families. In the Greek Expat communities around the world, there has been a wave of support for the mother country.

For more information on helping the hungry, homeless and jobless in Greece, please go to the Greek America Foundation‘s website and learn more about Project Hope for Greece.

Image via bookbar.gr.

Food insecurity around the world

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“Those who wish for a more peaceful, just and sustainable world are helping to make ending world hunger a major priority… Together we can end hunger.”

Robert Alan Silverstein

That we, as a global community, could end world hunger is not a naïve notion. No, it is not as far-fetched as it seems, despite the daunting numbers and the amount of time, effort and resources needed to accomplish such a gargantuan task.  As with any challenge of great magnitude, the reasonable approach is (and has been) to compartmentalize the problem into smaller, more manageable components. Since the whole is equal to (not lesser than or greater than ) the sum of its parts,  each “part” (and, by extension, each of the subparts, and sub-subparts) can be (and have been) uniquely addressed.  In this instance, the “parts” refer, of course, to the continents;  the “subparts” are the countries, and “sub-subparts” are the cities, counties or communities.  If it sounds simple enough, experience has taught  us that the real bottleneck lies in the allocation and acquisition of the “time, effort and resources” required to eradicate the problem.  Just how big a problem is it?

The Numbers:

According to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization:

  • In 2010-2012, estimated that nearly 870 million people throughout the world (that’s one in eight people) suffer from chronic undernourishment and food insecurity.
  • an estimated 852 million live in developing countries; 16 million live in developed countries.
  • Asia and Pacific region: saw a 30% decrease (from 739M to 563M) in the number of undernourished people – due to socio-economic progress. <heatherfromthegrove: I believe that these numbers may increase by next year, as the recession makes its hasty way to Asia>
  • Latin America and the Caribbean:  also saw a decrease, from 65M (1990-92) to 49M hungry (2010-2012).
  • Africa: by sharp contrast, saw a huge increase, from 175M to 239M hungry (one in four people are hungry).
  • In developed countries, the number increased from 13M (2004-6) to 16M (2010-12).

The Causes:

According to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, there are five (5) principle causes of hunger:

  1. Poverty.
  2. Harmful/unstable economic and political systems.
  3. Conflict (the influx of refugees from unstable, conflict-ridden regimes/countries).
  4. Hunger (hunger causes physical and mental health issues which, in turn, bring on poverty – due to the inability to work or function properly; and this creates greater hunger).
  5. Climate Change (drought, flooding, erratic  climate patterns).

The Solutions:

According to Josette Sheeran, formerly the Executive Director (until her term ended in 2012) of the UN World Food Programme and now the Vice Chairman of the World Economic Forum, there are ten new approaches to eradicating world hunger:

  1. Humanitarian action.
  2. Provide free school meals.
  3. Safety nets (for when disaster strikes or a food crisis occurs).
  4. Connect farmers to markets.
  5. Special focus on providing children under two years old with proper nutrition, to help them develop properly and give them  fighting chance.
  6. Empower women.
  7. Technology is a powerful tool.
  8. Building resiliency… against national disasters.
  9. People power (individuals, partners, organizations, communities)
  10. Accountability (countries’ political leaders make it their mission to ensure that no child (in their country) will die from hunger.

For a more comprehensive understanding of world hunger, please refer to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012.

Ending world hunger… an impossible dream, or an attainable reality?

You know where I stand. 

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three.

Image via blog.igt.com.

The Kindness of Strangers

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“She walked briskly out of the supermarket.  The aisles of food and the smell of fresh fruit and vegetables had made her light-headed. She had spent two dollars on a dozen eggs and some bread and only had ten dollars left in her purse – in quarters.  She passed by a man who was standing near a bench by the store entrance. He was tall, thin, about thirty-something, dressed in clean jeans and a t-shirt, and was African American. He was asking people for money to buy some food. She glanced at him, mumbled “Sorry, I can’t” and continued walking.

Then, something in her sub-conscious made her stop and turn around. He was sitting on the bench, his head in his hands. She noticed something that she recognized only too well.  Despair.  She reached into her purse and counted five dollars worth of quarters (half of what she had left to last her for the next two weeks) and she walked back to the man and said “Excuse me sir, but here is five dollars in quarters. I hope this will help tide you over.”  He looked at her.  She could hear the intake of his breath.  His eyes were clear and intelligent.  He stood up and thanked her, very earnestly and with respect.  Their eyes met and he understood.  They were the same.”

― from  the vignette “The Kindness of Strangers” – pp. 52-53 of Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, by Heather Joan Marinos

(Copyright © 2013 by Heather Joan Marinos – All Rights Reserved)

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three.

Image (of hands) via dosomething.org.

Hunger up north

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 “Reducing household food insecurity, and the poverty that underlies it, is a win-win situation. It is a win for people facing low income, and for Canada as a whole. One does not need to look far to find many libraries worth of evidence that poverty is a key negative influence on health. Reducing low income leads to better health, which leads to higher levels of economic participation and lower costs related to health care and social services.”

Food Banks Canada, Hunger Count 2012

Here is the hunger news from our northern neighbors, and  my “Home and Native Land” …

The Numbers:

According to Food Banks Canada:

  • each month, 882,188 Canadians need to rely on food banks to feed their families
  • 31% more Canadians rely on food banks now, than before the recession
  • over one third are children and teens
  • 14% of the elderly Canadian population who live alone, are impoverished
  • 3.2 million Canadians live in poverty

The Solutions:

Food Banks Canada recommends some small policy changes that will help rectify some of the root causes of hunger and poverty:

  • make housing more affordable, and therefore more attainable
  • increase social investment in Northern Ontario
  • make pensions more adequate for the seniors who are impoverished, and who are experiencing food insecurity, as well as health issues
  • invest in good quality, support-intensive social assistance programs
  • address the issue of the decline in well-paying jobs

For more solutions, itemized in the Say No To Hunger campaign petition(sponsored by Food Banks Canada), go to:

http://www.saynotohunger.ca/SayNoToHunger/Our-Solution.aspx

Canadians, you may want to consider signing the petition!

 

HFH2

A tribute to the unsung heroes who help others

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“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”

Mother Teresa

They don’t have the power of money or celebrity to back them up.  Nor do they receive any payment or compensation for what they do.  Self-gratification is not their ulterior motive. 

They are simply ordinary people who do extraordinary things… to help others − for no other reason than love and respect for humanity.

These are the people who…

… save their leftover food from their restaurant meal, so they may give it to the person standing outside… that hungry person who’s seen better times but who, for one reason or another, finds himself down and out.

… volunteer their time to work in community outreach programs.

… make daily visits to elderly neighbors who live alone, just to make sure that they are okay and to give them a little caregiving and companionship.

… regularly help out at the food banks and missions.

… notice that an exhausted single mother, trying to do it all, may need  a little assistance with carpooling, babysitting, or a few ready-made meals that she can freeze and reheat later.

… sense that a friend may be going through hard times, and invite him/her over for dinner each week.

… teach their children kindness and empathy towards others.

The list is endless.

These are the people who, although not labeled as “activists”,  are quietly making a difference in the lives of others.

One person at a time.

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three.

Image (of hands) via mysuccessprinciples.com.

The value of altruism

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“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community. And as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.  Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch, which I have got hold of for a short moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.”

George Bernard Shaw

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Image via faithkitchen.org.

Be who you are. Say what you mean. Act on your beliefs.

Woman
“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.” 

− Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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Image via fortynineandholding.com.

The “Golden Years” are not always so golden

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Unless one’s heart is made of stone, most can agree that the reality of child hunger is a heartbreaking and very unpalatable pill to swallow. 

Human existence is cyclical. We begin life as children who depend on parents or family members for our food, our living conditions, and our sense of well-being and worth.   

As we move towards the last chapter of our lives, our health and frailty make it impossible to survive without depending on our children, family members, or community − for our food, our living conditions, and our sense of well-being and continued worth.

The golden years are supposed to be a time in life when we, who have worked so hard and who have taken care of so many, earn the right to kick back, relax and enjoy the company of loving family and friends, as they surround us with their affection and care.

Sadly, this is not everyone’s reality.  Many seniors are left to cope alone.  Many have to juggle with decisions like whether to eat or pay the utility bills, whether to eat or pay for medication, and whether to eat or pay the rent. 

As I mentioned earlier, human existence is cyclical.

Unless one’s heart is made of stone, most can agree that the reality of senior hunger is a heartbreaking and very unpalatable pill to swallow. 

I’ll leave you with some sobering statistics, cited by the folks at Feeding America.  Next week, I will be taking a virtual hunger tour around the world because, as we all know, hunger has no geographic boundaries.

According to Feeding America,

“The number of older adults is projected to increase by 36% over the next decade and continue to rise in the following decade. In 2030 there will be 72.1 million older adults, almost twice as many as in 2008. Additionally, the senior population is becoming increasingly diverse.  Between 2010 and 2030, the white population of 65 and plus is projected to increase by 59% compared with 160% of older minorities.”

“These changing demographics will have profound impacts on the demand for social services, especially the need for adequate and culturally appropriate nutrition services.  Seniors may have unique nutritional needs and challenges that separate them from the rest of the population and must be considered.”

“In 2011, 4.8 million Americans over the age of 60 were food insecure. This constitutes 8.4% of all seniors. “

“The number of food insecure seniors is projected to increase by 50% when the youngest of the Baby Boom Generation reaches age 60 in 2025.”

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from my website,  I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three.

Image (at the very top) via mycarforcharity.com.

The economics of fighting hunger

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“Investment in the eradication of hunger today is a good business decision. If we fail to make this investment, it is
doubtful that we can sustain healthy economic growth. Without this investment, our nation may disintegrate into a
country sharply divided between those who have enough to eat and those who do not.”
— Alan G. Hassenfeld, Chair & CEO of Hasbro, Inc.

If the humanitarian reasons for fighting hunger are not convincing enough, let me put an economic spin on it, by breaking the issue down to dollars and cents.

According to a recent Hunger in America report prepared by the Center for American Progress and Brandeis University,  “Hunger costs our nation at least $167.5 billion due to the combination of lost economic productivity per year, more expensive public education because of the rising costs of poor education outcomes, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity to keep families fed.”

The hunger bill directly affects every American citizen and resident.  Oh, it’s not a bill per se.   The costs are embedded in our taxes and in the contributions we pay to charities.  Our nation’s economy is heavily weighed down by the cost of hunger, spending upwards of $94 billion dollars a year, in federal food assistance programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as  “food stamps”).

As the middle-class progressively disappears below the poverty line, the drain on our economy worsens. 

Hunger adversely affects our bottom line. 

Yet, even big corporate executives realize that the eradication of hunger is not simply an issue of economics, but  a more fundamental problem of justice, equality, and humanity.

“America is the richest country in the world. And yet tonight, thousands of your neighbors will go to bed hungry.
It may be your child’s schoolmate who is undernourished and has difficulty learning on an empty stomach.
Or it could be a co-worker, a working mother whose low-wage job doesn’t make ends meet.
Perhaps it’s an elderly neighbor who has to make a decision whether to delay filling a prescription or buying groceries.
The faces of hunger are as broad as the faces of America.”
— David Nasby, retired vice president of General Mills  (one of the world’s largest food companies)

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, 2013,      purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression  and for every $20 book purchased directly from my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three.

Image (at very top) via Emmaushouse.org.