Monday, February 06, 2006

Review: Ending Hunger Now

For Book #3 in my 52-books-this-year-resolution, I just finished a quick read: Ending Hunger Now - A Challenge to Persons of Faith, co-authored by George McGovern, Bob Dole, and Donald E. Messer. I can't remember where I first heard about this book, but saw it advertised/reviewed somewhere, and though it looked interesting.

The book features a chapter each from McGovern, Dole, and Messer, then a chapter of "trialogue" with all three, and then a conclusion/challenge chapter from Don Messer. The book, as the title suggests, focuses on the realistic approaches to ending world hunger. Bipartisan legislation over the years sponsored by McGovern and Dole is discussed, as well as the goal set in 1996 by the leaders at the United Nations World Food Summit to cut global hunger in half by 2015. McGovern and Dole particularly discuss their work with US legislation that started the school-lunch program and WIC, and ponder the possible affects of similar programs abroad.

In the trialogue section, the differences between the philosophies of Dole and McGovern become apparent, and not surprisingly to my regular blog readers, I personally agreed more with McGovern's views than Dole's. McGovern highlighted some specific approaches, referring to ideas set out by Jeffrey Sachs in The End of Poverty: (briefly) boosting agriculture, improving basic health, investing in education, giving people electrical power, and providing clean water and sanitation. Both Dole and McGovern note the powerful correlation between providing lunches free at school and increase in attendance at school by poor children, especially girls. (pg. 72) McGovern also especially urges for programs that rely on commodities from local farmers. Both speak in support of genetically modified food - I honestly am not sure where I stand on this - I don't know enough. I support knowing information about where our food comes from and what is in it, though. McGovern and Dole particularly part ways when discussing the relationship between terrorism and hunger. McGovern argues that terrorism is fed (in part) by "the frustration and anger - and the sadness - of not having enough to eat, not having a decent house, not having sanitary water." He advocates for seeking out causes of terrorism, and suggest hunger and poverty may be contributing factors. Dole disagrees, and suggest that countries with big food supplies might be bigger targets for terrorists. He wonders about terrorists poisoning food supplies, and other threats.

In the closing chapter, Messer talks about concrete steps for people of faith. He focuses on moving from charity to justice, sharing a great Bill Moyers quote: "Faith-based charity provides crumbs from the table; faith-based justice offers a place at the table." (pg. 89) I found this chapter inspiring, even in light of troubling statistics. Did you know, for example, that in 2002, George W. Bush, along with other leaders, supported a declaration for a "concrete effort" toward providing 7/10 of 1 percent of national incomes for development aid. Some small countries have already met this goal, and other larger countries have set specific timetables to reach the goal. But the US has no concrete plans, and currently spends only 2/10 of 1 percent on development aid. (pg. 92)

Overall, I would recommend this as a good resources for congregations, especially for beginning conversations about hunger and poverty. Having read a lot in this area, I felt this was a pretty basic, simple book, but it might be exactly what is needed to speak to the hearts of some people who just have not heard these facts about budgets, hunger, poverty, AIDs, education, etc. The book includes reflection questions and suggestions for further reading/action at the end of each chapter, making it a good small-group study book.
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