Monday, March 1, 2010

Fighting hunger with celebrities

For the majority of the US's history hunger has been a problem that hides its ugly head. There have been a few pivotal points in our nation's past where hunger has reared its ugly head and the nation responded to these crises accordingly with temporary solutions such as breadlines, food pantries, soup kitchens and food stamps. It is unfortunate how it is only when the hunger crisis in our nation becomes too obvious to be ignored that the public responds. The issue at hand is developing a system that will expose the current hunger crisis and perpetuate positive change that will strike the country of hunger.

A historic example of the hunger crisis rearing it head temporarily to promote change was in the 1960s with country idol, Senator Bobby Kennedy taking a tour of the South's kitchens and empty pantries thereby exposing the harsh realities of hunger in the US to the public. In Janet Poppendieck's Sweet Charity, the sentence that caught my eye during her recount of this period was: "In 1967, nearly anything Bobby Kennedy did was news, and hunger in Mississippi became news in America" (Poppendieck, 10). With the conclusion of Kennedy's eye opening journey to the South studies were conducted on hunger and nutrition and the facts of hunger in America were exposed to a society that had denied the existence of hunger in their own backyards. The "hunger lobby" that formed in the next decade made great strides in legislation that established the food stamp program that we use to this day.

The point that I want to relay from this historic example is that the hunger crisis has been a part of America's makeup for its entire history but only when a 'celebrity' exposed this crisis was action taken. In today's modern society where hunger is once again a hidden issue that is only exposed at emergency food programs the majority of the public is not aware of hunger once again. It would seem to be a simple solution to solve the hunger crisis by having one or two, blonde celebrities tour the nation, lodging in households where hunger is an everyday issue. Perhaps a sitcom series like the Simple Life starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie would be a useful tool for exposing hunger to Americans once again. Instead of the celebrities vising different rural communities and performing menial labor perhaps they could visit impoverished families and try to get by the way 36.2 million people in the US are forced to.

It is important that people understand that hunger hits families similar to their own who live pay check to pay check. Maybe if Paris Hilton were to visit the McDades where both parents work in the school district and are still counting pennies to feed their three children eyes would open once again to the food crisis in our country. The video clip that chronicles the McDades daily struggles is powerful but is not reaching enough people to generate a reaction and how else does one generate attention but by celebrity endorsement. For many people the premiere of 25 celebrities singing for Haiti in "We are the World" was more anticipated than the Olympic opening ceremonies: once again illustrating how celebrity status can help a cause. Somewhere since the 1960s there has been a breakdown in our federal food system; when there are institutions in our country that are overproducing food while people are going hungry there is a problem.

The food crisis in our country needs to be exposed to the public once again but this time I believe that changes must be made to fix the solution from the bottom up. People should not be living with hunger in a country that overproduces, legislation should be implemented that champions converting excess foods of American industry to the empty stomach of its people.

Cooking up a Story- McDades' Food Struggles

1. Poppendieck, Janet. (1998). Sweet Charity. New York, NY: Penguin Books

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this is a great video! Thanks for sharing it.