The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations projects that world hunger will reach a historic high in 2009 with over one billion people going hungry every day. According to FAO, “the most recent increase in hunger is not the consequence of poor global harvests but is caused by the world economic crisis that has resulted in lower incomes and increased unemployment. This has reduced access to food by the poor.” [Full report]

The projected 1.02 billion figure breaks down as follows:

  • Asia and the Pacific – 642 million people
  • Sub-Saharan Africa – 265 million
  • Latin America and the Caribbean – 53 million
  • Near East and North Africa – 42 million
  • Developed Countries – 15 million

The number one billion can be paralyzing. But therein lies our greatest challenge: to realize as individuals we cannot help feed one billion people. But together as smaller communities, as one nation, and as a global communion of churches and citizens, we can make a tangible difference.

It’s easy to get distracted, isn’t it? Where does “ending hunger” fall in your mental to-do list? Most of us make grocery lists, so try making your own “life to-do list.” You can do it free-form at first, but then prioritize. If you’ve got “be a good parent” or “make up with Dad” or “graduate college” or “get through this pregnancy,” where will you place “end hunger” in that assortment of important life goals?

Our personal and mental to-do lists can help us navigate the chaos of daily life. Sometimes we follow them fairly closely, and other times we look at them and laugh at the optimism that went into their creation. We’ll get those household supplies in a few days when we’re less busy. The car hasn’t stopped running—what’s another three weeks for that tune-up? You’ve sworn for two years you were going to finish hanging those pictures up in the basement and clean out that darn closet, unsure of what you might find in there when you actually do it.

When it comes to “ending hunger” and where we place that on our life to-do list, the message—the URGENCY—should be crystal clear.

–Aaron Cooper is Writer-Editor for ELCA World Hunger