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Hunger is constant specter worldwide

I’ve never been hungry.

I’ve missed a meal or two from time to time, mostly from a tendency to sleep late on weekends or to forego lunch on the river when the fish are biting. But I always seem to catch up at the next opportunity and replenish whatever calories I might have missed.

I recall having limited choices at times when I was growing up. Canned salmon was inexpensive and my mom could stretch the contents far enough to feed seven. She even made Spam edible, especially when accompanied by her biscuits, which remain unparalleled. We preferred fried chicken to fried Spam, but we didn’t always have enough free-range fowl roaming the yards to provide a meal every day.

We usually had fresh, frozen or canned vegetables available year-round, courtesy of the garden daddy planted.

We often ate simple, but we were never hungry.

I have to admit, reluctantly, that I don’t pay a lot of attention to food prices when I go grocery shopping. I check off the list my wife insists I make (She knows that if I need more than three items I’ll forget at least two of them if I don’t have a list.) and rarely consider how much a tub of margarine costs, compared to what I paid last week. I am spoiled.

I’ve seen hunger — in West Africa and The Philippines — during short trips to visit brothers in the Peace Corps years ago. I learned that many people spend most of their day trying to catch, harvest or accumulate enough money to buy just enough food to survive until the next day when they start the process again.

I realize that what I saw nearly 30 years ago has not improved much, if at all, and that recent food price hikes will make hunger a reality for even more. I feel a bit guilty at the relative ease with which I can find and purchase more food than I need today and tomorrow and for the next week or so.

I am fortunate. I live in a country where food is plentiful, thanks to a small percentage of the population who are good at growing it, and thanks to the vast natural resources that permit us to produce everything from spring wheat in North Dakota to oranges in South Florida.

We’ve written a great deal recently about the “perfect storm” of adverse conditions that have driven food costs up, in some cases beyond the reach of the world’s poorest citizens. We’re facing some of those ill winds in this country. Recent increases in unemployment point to increasing need in this country.

I’m not smart enough to figure out how to solve the ever-present specter of world hunger. Part of the blame rests with unstable governments; part with power politics that place personal gain over the good of the governed; part with forces beyond our control (weather, for instance).

We can’t blame U.S. farmers. We can’t place too much blame on converting land to energy production since replacing expensive petroleum may be at least part of the solution. We can’t place much blame on farm programs that keep farmers in business and food in adequate supply.

But we have to figure it out. Our country is too resource rich to allow its citizens to be hungry. Our world has too many options than to allow hunger to persist anywhere.

That’s a Pollyanna philosophy, simplistic and naïve, but we have to start somewhere.

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