I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer but…

By Joy Portella, President, Minerva Strategies —

If you’re like me, the next month is going to be gluttonous. It already started with Thanksgiving. My husband and I rolled home from three straight days of eating on the East Coast and there was only one thought in my mind: I cannot eat another thing.

Until the Christmas parties start.

This is a good time of year to remember that while many of us are gorging ourselves, there are millions of people going hungry. Many of those people are moms and little kids. Many of them live in faraway places like Africa and Asia – check out this rough news about tens of thousands of people living on the brink of starvation in Nigeria. But many malnourished people live close by in our country-of-plenty’s embarrassing food desserts, where access to nutritious food is limited.

One of Minerva’s clients is Roger Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent and senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He wrote a book this year called The First 1,000 Days about the critical need for mothers and kids to get the right nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life – from conception until age two. The book is eye-opening, and Roger recently talked to Chicago NPR about malnutrition among mothers and babies in impoverished countries, but also on that city’s south side. Roger’s a smart guy and you can listen to him here.

I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer during the holidays. I’m focusing on this problem because it has terrible consequences in terms of human development and lost potential. It’s also a problem that is – in part – solvable. There will always be hungry people in the world, but we could do a better job of helping people break cycles of chronic hunger and malnutrition.

So what can you do? A few things:

Get real: Don’t know what it’s like to be hungry? Maybe you’ll find out if you host or go to an Oxfam Hunger Banquet. At these events, what you get to eat is determined by the luck of the draw – just like in life. You can throw a banquet anywhere and Oxfam makes it easy. You’ll come out with a changed perspective.

Give: Donate to organizations like the Ounce of Prevention Fund or Feeding America. Offer up your time at a soup kitchen or a local food bank. Get out there and see what hunger looks like in your neighborhood, city, or town.

Push policy: US food aid feeds millions of people around the world. It needs continued funding and reform to work better and feed more people. Food aid – like many foreign aid programs – is an easy target for cuts because there aren’t big natural constituencies to support it, besides US farmers and shippers who are part of the reason aid needs to be reformed. If you want to surprise your Congressperson one day, call his/her office and say you care about food aid.

I’m not holding back on the gluttony this month but I will think more about hunger in our country and our world, and what I can do about it. I hope you’ll do the same.

Sorry if I interrupted your happy hour.