Feed the Hungry, 1996

Let's assume you are among the world's decently fed who contribute to relief of the starving. Half the American people do, according to the head of an international aid coalition, who describes many ways to help in "'Food Security' Means More Than Calories" on the previous page.

You don't have to go to poor nations to find the need for help. Some 13 million US children under 12 - more than one out of four - are "hungry or at risk of hunger," says the annual report on world hunger released on World Food Day (Oct. 16) by the Bread for the World Institute in Maryland. It says the US does less than the government of any other industrial country to protect children from hunger, though childhood poverty is "more widespread in the US than in any other industrial country."

With such findings, no wonder the institute calls its report "What Governments Can Do" - and describes what many governments have done. It appreciates all that individuals like you do to help. It grants that hungry people are fewer and add up to a smaller proportion of world population than 25 years ago. It even says that US nutrition and welfare programs have worked "fairly well."

But the institute calls on governments to work more effectively to alleviate its shocking tabulations of want in a world of relative plenty. This does not mean government monopoly of social services, a path toward authoritarianism. It means the appropriate mix of public and private initiatives, plus what is "most important" to "get the policies right": the active engagement of the public, "particularly poor and hungry people," at every step of the way.

The world doesn't rotate on a US presidential axis. Yet, as contenders to lead the richest country in history, candidates Clinton and Dole might note the coinciding of their final debate and World Food Day. We long to hear a word from them on how they can help - and how they think the rest of us can help - to feed the hungry.

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