Stepping up to address hunger in Iowa and around the world

Stepping up to address hunger in Iowa and around the world

It’s not every day when you attend a formal luncheon where the hosts caution that you will walk away hungry.

But that’s exactly what happened this week, when I attended a special luncheon at the Iowa Hunger Summit, an opening event for the World Food Prize ceremonies in Des Moines.

The annual Iowa Hunger Summit aims to raise awareness of food insecurity both at home and abroad. The Iowa Farm Bureau and FBL Financial Group Inc. are joint sponsors of the Iowa Hunger Summit, hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation.

At the luncheon, I was seated next to one Iowan who helps send food and medical relief to Haiti and another Iowan who founded a non-profit organization to feed children in South Africa. Needless to say, I was humbled to be in their company, and proud to live in a state that fosters such great humanitarians.

Each luncheon guest was served a typical meal provided by food-relief organizations to feed hungry families here in Iowa or overseas. On my plate was a vegetarian meal–a cup of Iowa-grown butternut squash soup and a small serving of carrot raisin salad.

A woman sitting next to me received a plate of goat meat and rice, a meal enjoyed by families in Afghanistan, where Iowa soldiers are teaching citizens improved farming practices. The woman politely took a bite of the goat meat, but left the rest on her plate. “We’re going to have to stop at McDonald’s on the way home,” she joked to her colleague.

Meanwhile, the student sitting to her right enjoyed a Caesar salad wrap made with locally grown vegetables, an example of a meal served in many school cafeterias as part of the state’s “Farm to School” program. The wrap sandwich was so big, the student only ate half of it. And she didn’t touch the pint-size carton of milk that came with the meal.

I hate to admit this, but I was tempted to sneak that milk carton into my purse. I was still hungry after eating my cup of soup. Before the end of the luncheon, I was already making plans to buy a snack for my trip back to the office.

But then, the luncheon’s keynote speaker shared a video of his recent trip to Somalia, an African country gripped by widespread famine. The images of starving mothers and infants crying for food silenced the room.

I also learned from the volunteer sitting next to me that many people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day and are lucky to enjoy one meal a day. Our conversation weighed on my mind when I dug into my wallet to buy a $3 snack after the meeting.

Farm Bureau supports the Iowa Hunger Summit to help bring awareness to the urgent need to feed the hungry both at home and abroad.

As the world’s population continues to grow, the United Nations forecasts that global food production will need to increase 50 percent by the year 2030 to meet increasing demand.

Iowa farmers are stepping up to this challenge, adopting new technologies that allow them to produce more food using fewer resources. In addition, farmers are donating the foods they grow to local food banks, which are struggling right now to keep up with the need.

Yet as we learned at the Iowa Hunger Summit, everyone can play a part in solving world hunger. Consider donating to a food-relief organization or volunteering to hold a food drive in your community. It may seem like a small step, but it can make a world of difference.

Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.