Eat your breakfast. Make sure you take your lunch. Come down for dinner. These common reminders that we hear in our everyday lives may sound like a routine but for others it is a gift they can never imagine of having. I am sure when we hear “third world country” or “less developed country,” we all immediately think “poor.” Because of this, we probably associate poverty and hunger more often with the few less developed countries we can name on the top of our head, such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Cambodia, and Haiti; when, in fact, these matters are growing rapidly in every area, plaguing the entire world. We also tend to associate hunger with only our parents or grandparents’ generations, but actually we could not be more wrong. Hunger is present today, being overlooked like the anthrax attacks in 2001 or being brushed off like the ongoing struggle of women oppression. Why is this? Probably because we are spoiled by the foods we have available. Or maybe we can afford to swing by a restaurant. Or even because we just like to enjoy our food peacefully. Or perhaps some of us just don’t know.
I have to confess, that I can’t even fathom what is like to have only one meal a day—and to have that one meal every day. However growing up, at the dinner table my father always reminded me that food, no matter what the meal was, was a luxury. He grew up as the oldest in a family of four other siblings with both parents always at work to ensure there would be at least one meal a day (usually dinner) in their home in Thủ Đức District, Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam. However, this wasn’t enough. My dad occasionally would have to “be sick” and miss school, when really he would take a job such as selling sticky rice or green bean jelly for the day. I later found out that many families had it a lot worse. For some families, when a young child dropped one grain of rice by accident that child would be beaten. For some families, they would put one more spoon of salt in their stew to force themselves to eat less. For some families, the only accompaniment with rice was soy sauce. For some families, the only protein on the table was one egg. For most families, they could not afford one meal but for every two to three days.
So when I hear “hunger” I think of my parent’s and grandparent’s generation in Vietnam, never conceiving it would be present today and only a few miles away from my house in Columbia, South Carolina. Sure, I see homeless people on the streets everyday. Sure, I know we have a local food distribution center. Sure, I donate can goods around Christmas. But hunger didn’t appear as a problem to me until I looked it up online. In 2012, there were 49 million food insecure people in America (so roughly about 1 in 5 Americans were food insecure). And there are a total of 807, 960 food insecure people in South Carolina, and Columbia ranked as the city highest in food insecurity rates with 17%. And about a year ago, The Post and Courier, Charleston’s local newspaper, revealed that 1 in 5 South Carolinians were plagued with hunger. Reading this it registered that I just happened to be the lucky four of the five South Carolinians spoiled with food. However, this problem is not only found in my community or in South Carolina but rather it is a struggle rapidly emerging in every city and country in the world. With more people gaining knowledge of this prevalent issue the more likely we are able to relieve it.
Okay, the solution. Even though how dreadful this may sound, truthfully, hunger and poverty cannot be treated simply with donations but rather through the increase in available education and other factors that cannot be changed overnight. I can only say that hunger and poverty is overlooked and, in simpler terms, more people should be aware that these issues are found everywhere at any given time. For now, I can only encourage for others to support local food banks and distribution centers, aid organizations like Stop Hunger Now, and remember before they eat that they can help save one less hungry person in the world.
by Summer Nguyen