World Food Day: Beyond One Day

| November 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Image credit: US Department of State.

In 1945, the United Nations established October 16th as World Food Day – a day dedicated to raising awareness about food security, hunger, and poverty. Although over 150 countries have celebrated World Food Day for sixty-seven years, the problem of global hunger has not yet subsided, and 870 million people continue to go hungry every day. This disconnect leaves us questioning the efficacy of these large-scale, top-down development campaigns, World Food Day included, and prompts us to search for tangible solutions to alleviate these persistent global problems.

The USAID Impact blog on World Food Day begins, “Every year on October 16, we have the opportunity to reflect on the devastating and persisting realities of hunger and undernutrition in our global community. Although it is a single day, World Food Day represents our year-round efforts to end hunger, alleviate suffering and expand opportunity across the world.” The blog also describes USAID’s other food programs, each of which serves millions of people. Certainly, these yearlong programs are key parts of addressing the issue of hunger in the developing world. But the question remains: what role, then, does World Food Day actually play? Indeed, it provides the public with one day per year to remind them about the persistent issue of hunger, and it serves to reemphasize the efforts of large development agencies in addressing the issue of hunger. And yet, in what ways does World Food Day itself address hunger and poverty?

While the goals of World Food Day to reflect and raise awareness are admirable, they fail to include the crucial “action” component necessary for making substantive changes in society. What World Food Day must do is inspire Americans to think critically about issues of food security and to motivate them to find practical solutions. Especially because these problems do not affect Americans directly, World Food Day must create in Americans more than just a fleeting emotional response in which they donate to charity and feel as if they have done their part. Donations are important, but they do not address the root of the problems of hunger and poverty.

This is not to say that single-day development campaigns cannot be effective. A more productive solution might be to develop a program that stresses both awareness and a call to action. In addition, it might be effective to invest more resources in a campaign that supports bottom-up or grassroots organizations that have a greater impact at the community level. So, with World Food Day recently behind us and World AIDS Day rapidly approaching on December 1, 2012, what will you do to make an impact?

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Category: Development, Online

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