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Institute: Hunger can end by 2015; churches needed, SBC specialist says

WASHINGTON (BP)–Only a modest effort would be required to end hunger worldwide by the year 2015, but the United States and other countries have not demonstrated the political commitment to reach that goal, an anti-hunger advocacy organization says in its annual report released Nov. 19.
A Southern Baptist hunger specialist, meanwhile, called for churches to become involved in ministering to the needy in order to obey God and achieve the best results.
In its report, Bread for the World Institute says, “For the first time in history it is possible to end hunger, and that, rather quickly. The world has the resources, knowledge and structures. The world’s fields, livestock and oceans produce enough food. The world’s economies provide sufficient wealth.
“The key to overcoming hunger, in this era, is changing politics and empowering hungry and poor people.”
Bread for the World, a Washington area-based Christian citizens’ organization sponsored by 45 religious denominations, lobbies the federal government for policies that address the causes of hunger and poverty.
The report says the proportion of the world’s hungry has fallen from one-third to one-fifth of the population since 1970, but it cites the following statistics as evidence of the continuing problem of hunger:
— One of every 10 children in developing countries dies before he is 5 years old, with the majority of those deaths hunger-related.
— Eighty-seven developing countries do not produce enough food for those living in their borders and cannot afford to import the remainder.
— One in eight families in the United States remains on the verge of hunger.
— The demand for emergency food assistance in this country increased by 26 percent in the first half of this year.
Among the recommendations Bread for the World makes to improve political action on hunger are:
— Recover a moral urgency to end hunger by advocating government policies that help the needy.
— Hold institutions, including social and political ones, accountable to act for the benefit of the hungry.
— Promote democracy and participation in the process to improve economic conditions.
Soup kitchens in this country are expected to face greater demands this Thanksgiving, the report says. The government will have to do its part before “soup kitchen Thanksgivings become a thing of the past,” according to a Bread for the World news release.
“America is a country that’s privately generous but publicly stingy,” said Bread for the World President David Beckmann in a written statement.
The solution to hunger in the United States, however, “will only be found in Jesus Christ and not through more government programs,” said Steven Nelson, director of hunger concerns for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“It is ludicrous to speak of soup kitchens as becoming a thing of the past,” Nelson said. “As long as there are drugs, gambling, domestic violence and other forms of sin in our world, there will be those in need.”
Nelson said he has visited, eaten in and worked in several soup kitchens.
“Having seen the hope and Christlike love experienced by those who visit there, I have learned that soup kitchens are not a blight on society but a blessing of God in providing for those in need,” Nelson said. “In some settings, the elderly come not because they are hungry but because they are alone. No government program can replace a warm smile or a caring heart.”
Nelson cited such ministries as the Johenning Baptist Center in Washington,
where some drug addicts seeking food end up in counseling programs, and Brinkley Heights Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., where last year 64,000 meals were distributed and 183 people prayed to receive Christ.
“Sadly, many well-meaning Americans spend their energy and resources calling for more government action while never getting directly involved with those in need,” Nelson said.
“The church that cries for the government to fix the problem will find little satisfaction and few results. The church that follows the biblical mandate of ministry to the poor will see lives changed, souls saved and experience renewal as it moves closer to the heart of God. If churches in America would prioritize ministry to those in need, the hungry in America would all be fed and the numbers of those in need would decrease.”
The Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund exists to help feed the needy in the United States and in foreign countries. Gifts to the fund go completely for hunger ministry, Nelson said. Southern Baptists can provide a month’s worth of food for a North Korean famine victim for $1 and milk for a month to a hungry infant in Argentina for $1.79, he said.