The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is currently running two ads on the Travel Channel. You can view them here. According to the ELCA News Service:

“‘We hope that through television, billboards and printmedia, members of the
ELCA will be equipped to own and tell this church’s story, the story of what God
is doing in us and through us for the sake of the world,’ Bangert said.”

We in ELCA World Hunger especially like these two ads because in addition to telling what it means to be Lutheran, they also demonstrate that there are many ways to approach the problem of hunger. Again, from the ELCA News Service:

“One television spot — “Hope” — shows a woman quizzing her daughter as they
walk along a road near Yeumbeul, Senegal. It highlights Senegal Lutheran
Mission, which teaches women how to start their own businesses.

The other spot — “Dignity” — opens with workers setting tables in a fancy
restaurant. The “restaurant” is actually Trinity Lutheran Church, Bismarck,
N.D., and volunteers are preparing a banquet for homeless neighbors.”

I’ve written before about the importance of girls education to reducing poverty and hunger. Teaching women how to start their own businesses falls along the same lines and addresses the 3rd Millennium Development Goal: Promote gender equality and empower women. Poverty is disproportionately prevalent among female-headed households. In many places, patriarchal societies make it difficult for women to own property, find work, or participate in decisions that effect them. Thus marginalized, they lack the means to provide for themselves or their children.

On the other hand, women who are able to earn their own incomes have more choices and greater ability to lift themselves out of poverty. What’s more, this ability typically spills over to their children. Educated women are better positioned to tend to their children’s health and educational needs, thus raising a future generation that is also healthier and more skilled. Beyond education, women with their own income have greater access to resources, and more power in their communities. The work the ELCA is doing in Senegal and other places to help women start their own businesses is critically important to ending hunger.

The ad about serving a meal to homeless neighbors is another part of the fight to end hunger. Education is critically important, but when you’re hungry right now, simply eating is top priority. Without adequate food and nutrition, people are more vulnerable to illness, lack the calories to physically move through the day, and are less able to concentrate. Is it any wonder that hungry people are unable to work and, without work, unable to pay for shelter? In such cases, food aid is just as important as longer-term solutions like education. Again, the work of the ELCA is critically important to ending hunger.

It’s a lot to think about during that next commercial break.

-Nancy Michaelis