In the morning, eight-year-old Jorge Luis Hernandez has a small bowl of rice before going to work picking coffee beans near his home in the mountains of El Salvador. While attending school in the afternoon, he eats a meal of rice, beans, and tortillas, provided by the World Food Program (WFP). It’s his only full meal of the day. “Of course I am happy when I eat,” he says. “When I’m hungry, my stomach hurts, I don’t feel like playing, I don’t feel like doing anything.”
Jorge Luis Hernandez is not alone. Rising food prices in the United States have strained the budgets of many families. For poor people in developing countries, such increases have been devastating. WFP estimates that, as a result of skyrocketing prices, an average family meal in rural El Salvador today has 40 percent fewer calories than it did in May 2006. Worldwide, it is estimated the food crisis has pushed an additional 130 million people into poverty. Nearly 1 billion people do not know where their next meal will come from.
The food emergency of the past two years imperils decades of dramatic progress made against hunger and poverty. Since 1980, the percentage of people in the developing world living in extreme poverty has fallen from 50 to 25 percent. The percentage of undernourished people in the world declined from 28 to about 18 percent. But the worldwide food crisis threatens to undo that progress. More alarming still...
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About the Author
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World, an interdenominational Christian citizens' movement against hunger. A Lutheran pastor, he was formerly a World Bank economist.