A Thanksgiving Tale: The Hunger Cloth
By Roger Thurow
* This article may be reprinted with permission and providing credit to Roger Thurow,
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2012
I often write and speak about the awful oxymoron, “Hungry Farmers.” How can the smallholder farmers of Africa suffer through an annual hunger season when every morning they rise with one task: grow food for their families?
That these farmers should battle chronic hunger and malnutrition is absurd, obscene and shameful.
But there’s another awful oxymoron that deserves our attention, particularly as we near Thanksgiving and our season of feasts. Hungry Americans.
How can anyone in this richest country on the planet, home of the mightiest farmers, breadbasket of the world, be hungry?
That millions of households here are deemed “food insecure” – unable, at some point in the year, to afford the next meal – is equally absurd, obscene and shameful.
Hunger at home and abroad are of the same cloth. Yes, the depth of the hunger and malnutrition that I have seen in parts of Africa and elsewhere in the developing world is profoundly deeper than I have seen here. Thanks to a sturdy social safety net, no one starves to death here, as far too many people do every day in the poorer precincts of the world.
But whether in Africa or America, I see the same pain, desperation, guilt and humiliation in the eyes of mothers and fathers. How will I feed my family? Where will the next meal come from? And the same longing and despair in the eyes of the children.
I think back to one of my first conversations with Leonida Wanyama, who is among the smallholder farmers in western Kenya profiled in my new book, The Last Hunger Season. With head bowed and voice low, Leonida told me of the bleak Christmas holiday that had just passed; all she was able to offer her family was a pot of boiled bananas.