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Hunger isn't a game - here's how to fight it: Saul Kester

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Worldwide, 870 million people do not have enough to eat. That’s close to one out of eight people. One out of eight people do not have enough to eat every day. Breadline ArtView full size

How crazy is that?

An international summit entitled “Hunger is Not a Game” was convened in early November in Detroit, Michigan, in order to educate Jewish teens on the issue.

About 100 Jewish leaders attended the summit, which was held by BBYO, formerly known as B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.

The conference focused on issues that cause hunger, realities about living in hunger and the solutions that exist to combat it. As an active member of BBYO for the past four years, I attended the convention in order to obtain what BBYO offers best: meaningful lessons and powerful fraternity.

At the summit, teen leaders participated in several simulations to more fully understand what living in poverty was like for the 50.1 million Americans who must face it every day. In these simulations, we all had to live in the daily life of a family in poverty, and face the choices that families actually make. Hunger is not a game. It should not be treated as such.

The Community Action Poverty Simulation had groups take up various roles to create a community of sorts. I acted out the part of a small child in a family with two siblings and two parents.

My father was unemployed and our house was in foreclosure. With no money, my family couldn’t afford food.

The simulations stressed two key points: how easy it is to become food insecure, and how difficult it is to escape hunger. No matter how people responded to the simulations, and no matter what kind of help was received, problems would arise, and typically, the end result was absolute poverty.

Participants also volunteered their time at two different prominent Detroit food banks. I worked at Gleaners, where we separated canned foods from dry goods for distribution.

Millions of pounds of food are contained in these food banks, but we learned how insignificant this is in comparison to national hunger.

With more than 50 million people hungry, food banks in our nation can only provide on average about 17 meals to each person a year.

We also discussed the root causes of hunger, both nationally and internationally: poverty, war, natural disasters, and agricultural and infrastructural issues.

Contrary to popular belief, there is enough food in the world to feed the entire current population in this world. But this food is often not correctly distributed, and hunger remains.

The true way to end hunger is to demand change. Hunger is not going away, and has been getting worse in the past few years.

Our current food stamp program provides $4.45 a day for people who qualify for the program to eat, and even this small chunk of change will be diminished due to federal budget cuts.

The No. 1 cause of hunger in the United States is lack of affordable housing; most people in need are forced to funnel available funds right into rent. Political change must occur to actually end hunger.

Write to your legislators. Work with organizations focused on ending hunger, such as Mazon, a national organization that presented at the summit, or CHANNELS Food Rescue, a local organization partnered with Feeding America that works to end hunger in our area. Donate your time to help out at a food bank or a soup kitchen. Anything. Hunger is not a game. It should not be treated as such.

Saul Kester is a student at Susquehanna Twp. High School.

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