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ELCA World Hunger

The solution lies within the problem

I did a Web search recently, typing in phrases like “definition of hunger.” It was interesting in the vast worldwide Web the lack of coherent information I found on such a broad topic. I received the obligatory links to and other encyclopedic or dictionary-based sites, but only one source (at quick glance) led me past a one- or two-line description of what hunger is.

I discovered a report entitled “The Concept and Definition of Hunger and Its Relationship to Food Insecurity” by David H. Holben, PhD, RD, LD on the Web site of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The NAS is an honor society of distinguished scholars—many of whom are Nobel Prize winners—doing scientific and engineering research to increase our general welfare. It was born during the Civil War and signed into existence by President Lincoln with the Act of Incorporation. Its research is valued so highly by the U.S. government that Congress and the White House have issued legislation and executive orders to reaffirm its unique role.

This report cites such definitions of hunger as “the uneasy or painful sensation caused by a lack of food” or “the recurrent and involuntary lack of access to food.” These definitions are not groundbreaking. But what strikes me is the lesser-discussed definition of hunger within the circles we walk: “a strong desire for something.”

Sometimes the solution lies within the problem.

Making the news again lately are the dirt cookies that people in Haiti eat because of the rising cost of food and people’s growing inability to afford it, turning to government protest and acts of desperation. So what is it in us that hungers to combat this problem? If we have a “strong desire” to end world hunger, then we cannot help but be hungry ourselves: hungry for justice, hungry for socioeconomic changes, hungry for progress in the movement to end world hunger once and for all!

Among those who work to end this pandemic, it is a fine line to walk to say we, too, should be “hungry.” But if we aren’t, then the people we advocate for will be.

Aaron Cooper is Writer-Editor for ELCA World Hunger