Wheaton Wire, November 1992

A lecture by Professor Ellen Messer of the World Hunger Program at Brown University highlighted a week of peace and development programs held at Wheaton on November 16-20.

Sponsored by The Progressive Alliance and Amnesty International, the week of events tried to heighten campus awareness of hunger. On November 16, the movie, "Consuming Hunger" depicted various problems of hunger. A discussion about media and hunger followed. Professor Messer's speech was on the 17th and a "hunger banquet" to benefit Oxfam America was held on the 18th. To conclude the week's events, a Fast For a World Harvest was held. Students provided their student ID numbers in order to make a donation to Oxfam America.

Professor Ellen Messer's speech was a main part of the week's activities. Messer, a former Wheaton professor, spoke in the 1962 room to about 20 students and faculty. In her lecture, entitled "Overcoming Hunger in the 1990's: Local, National and Global Perspectives," she discussed many of the ways in which hunger affects people around the world.

Starting with the basic premise that "all human beings have a right to food" and "there's more than enough food for the world's population," Messer examined ways in which people can begin to address and solve the problem of hunger. She then identified a few of the main types of hunger.

Focusing first on famine, Professor Messer said that it is the "most well-known type of hunger." A widely used example of this type of hunger is the current situation in Ethiopia, where thousands have already starved to death.

The next kind of hunger she addressed was the problem of food shortage. "Food shortages," she said "often occur in zones of armed conflict; where food is often used as a weapon." Current examples of this type of hunger problem can be found in Yugoslavia and Somalia, where opposing factions have continually used food as a tool of war.

"The most common type of hunger," said Messer, "is food poverty." She then described food poverty as the situation that exists when food is available, but people just don't have the money to purchase it. She went on to say that this type of hunger could lead to malnourishment, which is also extremely common. Malnourishment can be found in the form of vitamin deficiencies, or just simply not getting enough to eat.

In the second half of her talk, Messer focused on some ways in which we can deal with the hunger problem. "Hunger is not just a matter of food," she said, "it's also a matter of caring." On the national level, she said that America must strive for an "equitable distribution of resources," and "support health and nutrition services." On a worldwide level, she offered a four-point plan to help ease the effects of all types of hunger.

The first step, said Messer, is to move food into areas that desperately need it. The second step she advocated was the elimination of food poverty, by making food available to people even when they may not be able to afford it. The third step necessary is to cut malnutrition of women and children in half by the year 2000, and the fourth was to eliminate Vitamin A and iodine deficiencies.

Despite the growing hunger problem in today's world, Messer concluded her discussion on an optimistic note, by saying that if everyone worked together we could "turn times of nutritional sorrow into times of adequacy," and turn harvests of sorrow into harvests of hope."


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