Smith, Oxfam Finds Young People Hungry to Make Change
About 50 years ago, President
John F. Kennedy identified ending hunger and putting a man
on the moon among his administration’s priorities.
To date, just one of those goals has been accomplished.
“We did get a man on the moon that decade but we still haven’t ended world hunger,” said
Nola Reinhardt, professor of economics, during a daylong Advocacy Institute sponsored
by Smith in collaboration with Oxfam America, the relief organization that works
to alleviate poverty, hunger and injustice worldwide.
On Monday, Jan. 23, nearly
60 students gathered at the college’s Conference Center to hear a slate of faculty
and Oxfam experts describe the world’s root causes of hunger and how students
can join the fight to end it.
Worldwide, an estimated 1 billion
people are hungry according to Sarah Kollach, campaign alliances
adviser for Oxfam America, which recently launched the GROW
campaign to eradicate hunger by 2050 when, it is estimated,
the world’s population will be 9 billion.
“We have heard about hunger
a lot over the years and some people think it’s an
intractable problem,” said Kollach, adding, “but, it's a
While there is enough food in
the world to feed everyone, issues of politics and power
prevent that, she said.
Although the percentage of people
hungry in the world had steadily decreased between the time
Kennedy took office and early 2000, the percentage has since
Reinhardt connected that increase
in hunger to a sharp spike in food and oil prices in the
first decade of 2000. When fuel is needed to produce agricultural
products, run farm equipment and transport items at great
distances to market, it factors heavily into the eventual
cost of food.
Further, an increase in fuel
prices has driven an increase in production of alternative
energy sources, including biofuel, which is made from sugar,
starch, and vegetable oil. But the manufacture of biofuels
often requires converting farmland to land for fuel production,
which can lead to greater hunger, Reinhardt noted.
of climate change, droughts and floods, as well as temperature
changes, have additionally aggravated the situation, speakers
Kollach offered ideas as to
how Smith students could get involved in advocacy efforts.
student volunteers usually work with Oxfam in one of two ways: as participants
in a national leadership program, the CHANGE Initiative, or as members of Oxfam
clubs on campuses.
Although the problems discussed
at the Advocacy Institute seemed to “balloon,” said Rebecca Hovey, Smith’s dean for international study,
students should pull the proverbial string on that balloon and figure out where
they can make a difference.
Gaining a better understanding
about how hunger and politics connect was one reason Ifetayo
Harvey ’14, a history major who hopes
to become a teacher, attended the Advocacy Institute.
Harvey grew up in South
Carolina one of seven children and said her family relied
heavily on its own garden for food. Knowledge about how to
grow your own food is something Harvey said she would like
to see more emphasized in school.
Additional faculty who
participated in the Advocacy Institute and are a resource
of information on the factors contributing to hunger include
Payal Banerjee, associate professor of sociology; Paul Wetzel,
senior research associate; Mlada Bukovansky, associate professor
of government; Beth Hooker, Five Colleges Sustainability
Programs coordinator; Greg White, professor of government;
and Andrew Guswa, associate professor of engineering.
and the work of Oxfam.