Food, glorious food, our lives are dominated by the desire and need to eat and the agricultural industry provides food for the billions of people on the planet. However, some people eat too much food, over 1.5 billion and others have too little food, about 925 million people are malnourished and go hungry.
The people with too much food, most of it bad for the health, are dying from the surplus as they get heart failure, diabetes, cancers and many other conditions. Those with too little are dying too from the lack of nourishing food. It’s truly a matter of social justice on a local and then global scale and needs the just and fair distribution of the world's resources and food above all.
Jesus of Nazareth, a prodigy of wisdom, advised his disciples to share whatever food they had (a few loaves and fishes) with the hungry people who had come out into the desert to hear him preach. The miracle was that the unselfish sharing of their little food inspired all the people who had food to share it with those who had none and there was enough for all.
Unselfish sharing is the way to bring greater balance into the world and the rich with compassion for the poor will have the spiritual insight and knowledge as to what is a good and right way to live and will have the spiritual will power and strength to control themselves and their appetite, greed and selfish urges. People are transformed when they forget themselves and get involved in helping change the world and help others. The real change in the world comes one person at a time, and it can then grow when others are inspired to do their share. Changing attitudes in a community by changing our way of life is teaching by example.
There is more than enough food in the world for everybody to eat well but the distribution is uneven due to corrupt governance, unfair laws and because the rich and well-fed have manipulated many a nation's laws to benefit themselves and their luxuriant lifestyles. The poor have little chance for education, good job and food security. They don't have a chance to provide for themselves.
Roger, a poor boy, asked me to help him get a job as a janitor in a fast food restaurant. He would be paid a minimum wage and allowed to have one meal a day. He just had to mop the floor and clean the toilets for eight hours. But to get the job, the company demanded a bunch of documents. He had to have a high school diploma, a health certificate, an x-ray, a birth certificate, 2 police clearance certificates, a letter of recommendation, a mayor's work permit and money for a uniform.
For every document there is a fee to be paid, so the very poor, they are excluded and can’t even get a job that needs little training as a janitor, a good and noble profession, where would we be without them.
However, hundreds of thousands of youth are unemployed because of these ridiculous and expensive requirements. When he got the job, he was fired after six months so as not to have him qualify as a regular employee and get additional health benefits. That's why hundreds of thousands go jobless and hungry.
If there is greater equality, then absolute poverty will be eliminated, and if there was less waste of food there would be a lowering of food prices and more people could be better fed. In the United States alone there is 40 million tons of food thrown away daily. In the UK, 15 million tons are wasted every day.
There are statistics showing that up to 30% of vegetables and fruit delivered to the UK supermarkets are rejected because they don't reach the pristine shape and looks demanded by the managers.
In the Philippines, the left-over food from the plates of the restaurant customers are collected by the very poor and boiled and eaten. It keeps them alive. For another estimated 20 million Filipinos, a cup of cooked rice and a piece dried fish and a scrap of vegetable is all they can afford.
Even the ability of the people to feed themselves by growing their own food is being hampered by the control of the vegetable soya and corn seeds worldwide by companies making genetically modified organisms (GMO). Others have terminator seeds. These are sold with the help of corrupt Department of Agriculture personnel to farmers instead of traditional natural seeds.
The seeds are dependent on fertilizers made by the same company (Shell for example). They produce seeds that will not grow again, and the farmers have to go back and buy more seeds every year. Self reliance is taken away. That's why many rural communities are in debt and poverty and some send their children to work in the cities. Many of them are trafficked into the sex trade.
What's needed from most is a people's power, peaceful, non-violent movement to protest and challenge the ruling elites and educate the people to elect honest representatives renowned for integrity with the best interests of the people at heart. Now that's a real challenge.
Fr. Shay Cullen is a Catholic priest who serves the people of The Philippines. He is the co-founder of PREDA.org: a nonprofit dedicated to ending the exploitation of children.
(Paintings by Filipino artist Joey Velasco)