“There’s enough on this planet for everyone’s needs but not for everyone’s greed.” – Mahatma Ghandi.
The psychological impact of hunger during childhood can scar people for life. As more and more families in the UK fall within the definition of ‘food insecurity’ – a state whereby there is a lack of regular access to sufficient food for normal growth and development – the need to make massive systemic change is becoming more and more evident.
Throughout Western Europe and America, hunger is not down to lack of food. There is plenty to go around. Despite occasional shortages catastrophized by the media, our supermarkets are regularly restocked with fresh produce. Fast food outlets adorn every street corner. Food poverty is purely and simply down to economics, the cost of living, and political will. It could be eradicated overnight if there were political will.
It was Martin Luther King who once said: “Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, at any table, when the man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources. The deficit is in human will.”
Impact of Growing Up in a Hungry Household
The physical impact of hunger is well documented. Lack of nutrients, and insufficient calories to drive healthy growth and development, children who have suffered malnutrition from an early age bear those scars throughout their adult life.
Growing up in a hungry household is usually one that experiences stress, anxiety, and isolation, which is subconsciously and unwittingly communicated between the adults and the children.
Building a sense of agency and empowerment in those who are suffering from food insecurity is far more powerful than simply feeding them. Food agencies have known this for years, working with communities in underdeveloped locations and giving them the knowledge and tools to become self-sufficient rather than simply providing food.
In developed countries where food is plentiful, self-sufficiency takes on a different role. Organizations such as Charity Meals are working within communities to alleviate immediate hunger through the provision of community meals, but more importantly, it is seeking to grow a network of community kitchens where volunteers can work with families struggling with hunger to prepare food together.
A Community Approach
Taking a community approach to alleviating hunger is a key part of mitigating the psychological impact of hunger. Hunger in the UK can be a lonely and isolating state, shrouded in shame and embarrassment. Parents are wracked with guilt that they are not able to provide for their children.
Many will go without to ensure that their children get as much as possible, putting their own health and well-being at risk.
The Trussell Trust, which supports a network of more than 1300 food banks across the UK, has this year seen an increase of 37 percent of people in crisis, visiting food banks often for the first time ever. Almost three million emergency parcels were handed out to people facing food hardship. While the soaring cost of living is easing slightly in the UK, the knock-on effect of the debt crisis will take years to balance out, placing an entire generation of children who have had to deal with the pandemic and the aftereffects if extreme hunger.
They say it takes a village to raise a child – the creation of a community kitchen takes hunger out of the isolation of individual homes and back into the care of the community, where scars can be healed and bellies filled while surrounded by love and support.