"... for I was hungry and you gave me food." (Matthew 25:35a)
I see everything as a matter of peace. This stems from embracing a holistic concept of peace that runs through the Bible as denoted by the Old Testament Hebrew word for peace, shalom, and from Perry Yoder's explanation of this concept in his book Shalom: The Bible's Word for Salvation, Justice & Peace (Evangel Publishing House, 1987). To summarize and expand somewhat on Yoder's explanation, shalom consists of material prosperity; healthy, right relationships with God, self, others and creation; and moral integrity; or simply, where there is shalom "things are as they ought to be."
It is safe to say that with regard to food, things are NOT as they ought to be. There are many food-related problems in the world, the most serious of which is probably the fact that 854 million people world-wide suffer from hunger <http://www.bread.org/learn/hunger-basics/hunger-facts-international.html> with up to 300 million more at risk due to current food shortages and food price increases <http://www.oxfam.org/en/news/2008/pr080603_food_crisis>. It is estimated that over 10 million children die each year due to hunger and preventable diseases. This is equivalent to over 30,000/day or approximately one every 3 seconds! <http://endpoverty2015.org/goals/end-hunger>. These numbers are hard to relate to, but they are real. Working to alleviate hunger and address other problems related to food to make things "as they ought to be" is clearly a work of peacemaking.
The basic hunger problem is not new. One program that recognizes and is attempting to address the problem of global hunger is the UN Millennium Development Goals Program <http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/> which seeks to cut world hunger in half by 2015. However, this long-standing problem has recently worsened due to natural disasters such as the cyclone in Myanmar, the earthquake in China, and climate change, all of which have reduced food crop production. In addition, the rise in the price of oil and the increased production of bio-fuels has contributed to an increase in the price of food.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, food prices rose 54% from April 2007 to April 2008 <http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/FoodPricesIndex/en/>. For many of the world's poor who spend 50-80% of their income on food, the increase is beyond their means.
The problem of hunger and other issues related to food are complex and we, as Christians and peacemakers, must be engaged in a process of learning, understanding, praying and acting to help those who are suffering because of these problems. However, in this article, the first of several to be done on food-related problems, the emphasis is Keep It Sweet and Simple: KISS!
As quoted above, Jesus says in Matthew 25:35, "I was hungry and you gave Me food." Simple. Straightforward. Our first response to hunger must simply be to feed those who are hungry. It does not matter why they are hungry, how our lifestyle may be contributing to the problem, or what the cost is. If it is within our power to provide food for those who are hungry, then we must do so. James says in James 2:15-16 "If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?"
So let's start by looking at our budgets, then contributing to food for those who are hungry. There many ways to go about this including donating to local food pantries, providing meals for homeless or other needy people, or donating to relief and development organizations. In many cases the most effective way is to contribute cash. Often local food pantries can obtain food from a central supplier more cheaply than we can get food at a local supermarket, thus increasing the amount of food a dollar will buy. Likewise, overseas agencies can get local food more cheaply and doing so contributes to the local economy.
Some possible organizations to contribute to and from which one can learn more about hunger include:
Oxfam International estimates that $50 will provide food for one person for one year in one of the poor developing countries of the world. Put simply, $50 could save a person's life. Let's promote "things as they ought to be" by feeding those who are hungry.
Editor's note: For more on this topic, see <http://peace.mennolink.org/cgi-bin/m.pl?a=422>