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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hunger and Social Change

Purnima Menon, a Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, has written a nice article today in Foreign Policy, highlighting the role of empowering women and other excluded sections of the society in solving the hunger problem.

The article starts by saying "What India's starving children don't need is more blind handouts. What they do need is real social change", and it shows a photograph of school-going girls eating a government-sponsored midday meal.

I am a big supporter of the school midday meal programs in India. They have had a large positive impact. Nevertheless, I totally agree with Menon's sentiment that even school going children require more than "blind handouts" of food. A lasting solution for a hunger-free India won't come in the absence of basic social change.

This is precisely the reason Srishti Annam believes that community holds the key to hunger alleviation. Feeding the totally helpless is critical for their immediate survival, but real, sustainable change comes from sensitizing, inspiring and involving the community to solve its own hunger & nutrition problems.

Community involvement in Srishti Annam is much deeper than just volunteering to make or serve food. It involves repeatedly reinforcing messages that hunger is the root cause of many current and potential problems in their community; inspiring children from well-provided families to be compassionate; setting up a persistent example of the right way of treating the absolutely weak and helpless; supporting all able-bodied individuals to stand on their own feet; reaffirming that our universality as human beings goes well beyond the seemingly wide gap between the Hungry and the Satiated; and demonstrating a sustainable way in which the community can comfortably take care of all its hungry.

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