The Catholic Thing
On Hunger Print E-mail
By James V. Schall, S.J.   
Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Among the topics that the Holy Father addresses, hunger is near the top of the list. To Caritas International, he said: “We are in front of a global scandal of around one billion – one billion people who still suffer from hunger today. We cannot look the other way and pretend that it does not exist” (L’Osservatore Romano, English, December 13). Waste of food is a major cause of this hunger. “The data furnished by FAO indicates that approximately one-third of the global production of food is not available because of ever greater losses and wastefulness,” the pope wrote to Jose Graziano da Silva on World Food Day.

When anyone discusses poverty and hunger, two approaches exist to evaluate the evidence, which itself is disputed. One way begins with what has been done to make things work. The other way concentrates on what remains to be accomplished. Even if the figure of one billion hungry is accurate, we cannot but be astonished that at least six billion people are not hungry. Even more amazing is the rapidity in recent decades in which poverty and hunger have been reduced. Not a few ecologists believe that the world is beyond its “carrying capacity.” They insist that we need to reduce world population by several billions – so that no one starves. 

The figure of one billion hungry people evidently comes from generally accepted international statistics. The World Hunger Educational Service writes: “The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. Almost all the hungry people, 852 million live in developing countries, representing 15 percent of the population of developing countries. There are 16 million (of 6 billion) people undernourished in developed nations.” The distinction between starving and malnutrition should also be kept in mind as these two ideas are usually taken together in the calculation of numbers of hungry.

          Somalia: malnourished children

The pope himself recognizes that the only real solution to hunger is through a productive economy in which everyone can earn his own living and not have to rely on outside help. Actually, numerous organizations already seek to provide food for those who need it. Much of this food for the hungry does come from surplus or waste food. However, the image of moving the wasted food to those who need it overlooks the reality and cost of how this might be done, assuming that it is a good idea.

First, much wasted food is wasted by law. That is, if we give surplus food to someone and he gets sick on it, we are liable. In a perfect world in which everyone was properly fed, there would still be about the same percentage of waste as there is now. Most waste is simply not transferable and is itself the result of efforts to supply everyone with adequate food. A no-waste economy is usually a starvation economy.

The world in fact, has the capacity to feed everyone. Much of this capacity depends on science, improved grain yield, proper use of water, and efficiency of distribution. Some 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop goes by law to ethanol and not to food. This ethanol mandate is in great part because we have neglected to develop our abundant oil deposits. Most of the world’s actual poverty and hunger is in the developing world. Why? In large part, because of defects and corruption in government or in local customs and beliefs. (Endemic warfare also plays a role.) The fact is that hunger and poverty are not “natural” things in a world where we know how not to be poor.

          Somalia: overfed rebels

As the World Hunger Educational Service put it: “The principal underlying cause of hunger and poverty is the operations of ordinary economic and political systems in the world.  Essentially, control over resources and income is based on military, economic, and political power that typically ends up in the hands of a minority, who live well, while those at the bottom barely survive if they do.”

If these remarks are plausible, then the causes of hunger and starvation are not that the rich countries are taking away from the poor. Practically all food aid comes from at least some rich countries. But if what is needed is a change in regime, custom, or economic philosophy, then talk of starvation or waste will not make much difference. If the regime has to be changed, then we must talk in terms other than hunger and starvation.

The pope seems to understand this. He still wants something done. The best approach to hunger is not solely by concentrating on the hungry, but on the reasons why the not-hungry got that way. It was not primarily by exploitation, but by productivity. If we do not learn these lessons, much hunger will remain, however good our intentions.

James V. Schall, S.J., who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. His most recent books are The Mind That Is Catholic and The Modern Age.
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Comments (18)Add Comment
written by Jack,CT, January 21, 2014
You Truly hit the nail on the head!

I totally agree with all you say and it is such a shame.
Part of the problem is "Gendercide",there is no Social
Security in 'Areas' of the world you speak of and people
who "Use to depend on there offspring" to care for them
into there later years!
I myself have seen a friend struggle to send money "Over
seas" to Trinidad to care for her demented mother where there is no (LTC)Long Term Care for the debilitated,sadly.
The mother is dependent on 'Adult Briefs" sent from here and moneys for "Food Prep" and care.
This kind of care is costly when 60 million BORN GIRLS

I ask for anyone who may be aware of a good food based

Ps,Mr Royal, I wanted to thankyou for your charitable
remark to me yesturday and after reflection
I agree with you and see your point,I tend
to be as Mr Ruse would say a bit "Passionate"
but I mean no harm and we are all family here,and I guess I learned a Lesson:Listen.
God Bless-

written by Jack,CT, January 21, 2014
Adden: Not to mention the legal murders as reported
by lifenews:
2.6 Murders every MINUTE!
157 Murders Every HOUR!
56,666,169.00 Legal Murders
Since The Supreme Court Ruling
41 years ago and if this does not
Give you Chills nothing will!
(United States Only!!)
Brad: Please add to end of my statement
before the last (Ps) Thx
written by Jack,CT, January 21, 2014
hmm.... ok no prob.LOL
written by Alessandro, January 21, 2014
Sounds like an argument for renewed consideration of Distributism. I think the term gets a bad rap, but it is really the implementation of Catholic social justice theory. Problem is it feels antiquated and quaint, rooted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Is there a way to apply this framework to the "modern world"? Can we aspire to a political and economic construct in which God and people matter?
written by Tim Rudderow, January 21, 2014
Small quibble. The production of ethanol from corn produces a byproduct, dried distillers grain (DDG). This byproduct has 70% of the feed value of the original corn (it is high in protein so replaces soymeal in the feed mix.) So the corn is not totally lost to the food system, a fact that is always omitted when discussing ethanol.
written by Sue, January 21, 2014
A good article to which I would add the chilling detail that the US and its cohorts in the eugenics cartel (unfortunately comprising some "catholic" charities), are complicit in waging contracept/abort/sterilization for food campaigns against developing countries. And could very well deploy this same Faustian-bargain against domestic welfare recipients in future if not currently happening. After all, they've got Obamacorpse to chain everyone to the government.
written by Chris in Maryland, January 21, 2014
One example along lines Fr. Schall has painted is Egypt's agricultural shift from growing grain to growing cotton. A country that could once feed itself ran out of bread in these recent 3-4 years.

I am guessing that "global interests" (IMF, etc) gave the incentive to put their people at risk of bread lines.
written by Ted Seeber, January 21, 2014
The real answer to world hunger, seems to be urban farming, permaculture, and guerrilla agriculture.

I wonder how long starvation would last if we had a private program to buy seeds, create and toss millions of these out of planes over impoverished countries?

We are nowhere near carrying capacity on this planet. We just need to be smarter in how we use the space God gave us.
written by Allan Cheung, January 21, 2014
Mr. Rudderow: Interesting point. I'm curious to know how the DDG gets into a form that might feed people. Or does it go strictly into feed for livestock? And what percentage of food exports to poor nations is in the form of animal protein?
written by Militaris Artifex, January 21, 2014
A good part of the problem is also caused by governments, including that of the U.S. Two recent examples will illuminate how unintended consequences of government intervention increase the hunger in some parts of the world:

(1) Much of the famine in Somali civil war in the 1990s resulted from warlords such as Mohamed Farrah Aidid seizing the donated food and reselling it at a profit to finance his military operations. These actions, coupled with the clan rivalries in Somalia resulted in shortages of food, and the fighting interfered with the harvest of large quantities of grain from the outlying countryside.

(2) Late in the G.W. Bush administration, the Federal government mandated the production of ethanol for use in fuel supported by a guaranteed subsidized price for the harvested corn. The immediate result of this was that a substantial proportion of wheat farmers plowed under their wheat crops in order to plant corn, which resulted in the meteoric rise in the cost of bread (made from wheat) in the years immediately following the mandate's implementation.
written by Rosemary, January 21, 2014
When Fr. Junipero Serra was sent to California a few centuries ago, he was stunned to find that the indigenous people did not know how to farm their land. They must have been a hungry lot, and Fr. Serra brought with him the latest techniques on planting and irrigation that the native tribes learned about quickly. Soon they were prosperous and remain so today.

Yes, food is wasted but worse than that is the food that could be grown yet never is. Why is that? Zimbabwe's soil made it the breadbasket of Africa but today, it's in tatters. The people there are not hungry because we grow corn for ethanol!

I totally agree with Fr. Schall that the answer is not simply giving food away. And U.S. taxpayer money has gone to support dictators in food-short countries for decades, so we know that money is not the answer, either.
written by Jack,CT, January 21, 2014
@Sue,I have heard so many stories about "Food assist tied to abortion and Sterilization",sadly.
Giving life with food in one hand and taking a womans god
givin Right and responsibiliy in marrisge,how terribly sad!
written by DS, January 21, 2014
The Pope's words are not primarily policy prescription, but a wake-up call about the spiritual component of hunger. Not just how a lack of food affects the hungry, but how an abundance of food can present its own spiritual risks: ingnorance of hunger, indifference to the suffering of the hungry, callousness, wastefulness, idolatry of food and gluttony, to name a few. Hence his exhortation that we should be mindful of our own eating habits.

I agree that talk of starvation and waste alone will not solve the problem, but talking about them is indeed helpful, especially during prayer.
written by Avery Tödesuhl, January 22, 2014
Fr. Schall writes: "The best approach to hunger is not solely by concentrating on the hungry, but on the reasons why the not-hungry got that way. It was not primarily by exploitation, but by productivity."

This is very sagacious. But then he writes: "The pope seems to understand this."

Where's the evidence that this Pope understands this? After all hasn't he characterized this approach as a "trickle down theory ... which has never been confirmed by the facts"? I can't see how Fr. Shall can maintain that this Pope understands the sagacious point made in this post.
written by Walter, January 22, 2014
Avery - I think Fr. Schall was trying to follow the Jesuit tradition of loyalty to the pope. Read between the lines.
written by Avery Tödesuhl, January 22, 2014

I agree with your interpretation of Fr. Schall's remark. However, I place no importance on "Jesuit tradition" if it contradicts the truth. No man-made tradition has trump over truth.

Meditate on it.
written by Louise, January 24, 2014
Walter and Avery, I wonder if you are misreading Fr. Schall? I do not read him to be attributing this exact idea to the pope--"It was not primarily by exploitation, but by productivity"
That seems to be Fr.'s conclusion which he is proposing (perhaps to the pope?)
It seems to me that this should be a separate paragraph: "The pope seems to understand this. He still wants something done" from what follows (the quote you pulled out).
Or I could be misreading him...Editor?
202-205 of Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium is a good reference in this discussion.
written by Sean, February 09, 2014
Well let me tell you something . . .

Our Holy Father has walked amongst the veritable poor. As did Our Lord. And that is his, Francis' (and His, Jesus' ) demand . . . walk with the poor. Love the poor.


The poor.

Now, I'm about as a Canadian and a Catholic an ass as anyone ever has been. I am a both a hick and a sinner : again, a Canadian and a Catholic.

Brother Ass : that's me.

But I have - through Grace - surrendered a lucrative Canadian career in pharmacy for our Lord, upon one - ONE - prayerful reading of Humanae Vitae. Plus a coupla weeks of crying and wailing and yelling and reading moral theology and Bl.John Paul II with both a great and saintly Polish priest, and [a real] Jesuit spiritual director.

No big deal. I love Him. I want to want to do - to give - anything to Him, for Him. He has forgiven me for many, many dark and fully-self-pre-occupied crimes. Alleluia. Amen.

And here I am - now - amongst the working poor in oh-so-rich-and-yelling-and-celebrating-socialist-Canada. Poor Canada.

Try telling the religious-truth on a job interview after quitting either a retail or a clinical pharmacy position for Christ, and see what other options you have other than low-level labour.

Especially with my abrasive personality, and my messy past. Anyway . . .

Good enough. Seriously. Good. Enough. For me : Saint Joseph, himself, has shown me, through this, the quote-unquote-reality of the lip service in my weekly mumbling of the Creed, together with every other Catholic on Sunday, " . . . the communion of the saints, the resurrection . . . and so on . . . amen . . . "

Poor Canada. Oh-so-rich-and-yelling-and-celebrating-social-justice-socialist-"Catholic"-Canada.

On another tack : here's an exchangeable word for the technical theological term, "concupiscence" : ADDICTION.

. . . and addiction is running amok amongst a certain sub-population of [very] marginalized children-of-God : young men. As it is everywhere else. But this place has become next-to-my-heart.

This place in this time : young men, and not-so-young, men who WANT to WANT to be good, to love - in, like, dying for his beloved, I mean - and spending himself for another. Nowadys. Men wondering about how to be Good. For real.

But what do they have when they turn to a sugary, shallow Canadian society, and to a Church whose leaders have snuggled up to that society? A society of nice guys?

Baloney. And tolerance, and diversity. And bull. And nothing real. Nobody. And that's what. And they know that. Why wouldn't they? They are human. Humans. Being. Shit. Upon.

What's diversity mean in Canada? Here : it means that if you are anything but a man, a heterosexual man of European decent, then you are preferred and privileged over and against a mythical and deeply dishonest portrait of an unreal aggressor . . . an aggressor personified as a testosterone-drunk-doofus/rapist/sportsfan . . . a bogey in the basically honest - albeit confounded - working white guy who wants to marry a woman and be a good dad.

And in the local Catholic parish - should one of those boys look there for his God - they get this : boxy, chubby old baby-boomers, hippies and acoustic guitars, burlap and felt altars, feelings and no authentication of their moral compass, no validation of their deep need to GIVE SOMETHING BACK - penance -, no consideration of non-sentimental-yet-Divine Mercy, healing and a Way - a Person, a Man, God - who is the Truth, also, and the Light . . . illuminating the beauty of one's self, yes, but - urgently - exposing the horror, sin and rot of a self run riot as a slave to the being of a feelin'-good-surfer-playboy who needs to fall at the foot of the Cross, at the pierced feet of his Davidic-warrior-Lord in order to plead for the mercy - pardon and Grace - required to stand and finally BE A MAN.

Myself, if I had money . . . me, I'd start a construction firm, in a flash, that would dare young men to tell their girls to have that baby - and say, 'NO!' to the abortion they do not, in either of their young hearts, want - and then work for us(the company) for just two years . . . and then maybe we could work out a payment plan for community college. Or something else.

Two years of warmth and daily prayer and dignified labour. RCIA. Mass. Confessionj. Reading the popes - Blessed John Paul II, Saint Pius X, Paul VI, Leo XIII, Pius XI, Pius XII, Benedict XVI. Reading real men . . . Chesterton, Belloc, Tolkien, Ignatius of Loyola, the Church Fathers . . .

. . . the Bible . . . Saints (men and women)

. . . the CCC . . .

. . . praying the Rosary, the Mercy Chaplet . . . the Divine Office . . .

. . . speaking to one-another, in and after prayer and work . . .

Idealistic? I suppose. Ask Enrique Shaw. Or Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.

Guess what happened in my parish, this morning, when I started to try to talk about my construction job, and my - outrageous and likely impossible - and (again, to me)almost unutterable prayer for the means to provide a miraculous workplace for poor young and forgotten white heterosexual men (shitheads - thieves - according to a prosperous Baby-booming Catholic [Knight-o'-Colombus], ex-colleague of mine who figures that my medico/pharmaceutical 'take' on Humanae Vitae waxes-a-tad-fanatic) . . . ?

I was told that I'd get ripped-off . . . and it'd be better to try that sorta shit as a priest, or a nun - and I quote - like "that Theresa in Calcutta."

I want to know this : did I miss the spot where Jesus Christ - the Eternal Word of God Almighty become flesh - said that His Beatitudes, His sermon on the mount, was not applicable in Canada?

Where is it that Jesus told us that Canadians are so good, naturally, that they're just plain SAVED no matter what?

Screw Tim Horton, Pierre Trudeau and the horse they rode in on.

- Sean

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