NEWS DAY | Stuffing and starving

Minnesota is the top turkey state, according to National Geographic. Together with North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, and California, we produced two out of three of the 46 million turkeys that landed on Thanksgiving tables across the country last week. The great national pig-out (bird-out?) segued naturally into Black Friday’s over-consumption, with some stores opening on Thanksgiving Day and others in the wee hours of the morning on Friday. Online sales started on Thanksgiving Day, too, with Reuters reporting big increases over last year. In-store sales rose about 0.5% on Black Friday.

All that eating and spending makes it easy to overlook the flip side of the coin – outright starvation in large swaths of Africa and increased need stripping foodshelves across the United States.

As tens of millions face famine in eastern Africa, donor countries have cut their food aid drastically, reports the Guardian.

Food riots in more than 20 countries last year persuaded rich countries to give a record $5bn to the WFP to help avert a global food crisis brought on by record oil prices and the growth of biofuel crops. But new data seen by the Observer show that food aid is now at its lowest in 20 years. …
The US, by far the world’s biggest contributor to food aid, has so far pledged $800m less than in 2008; Saudi Arabia has paid only $10m in 2009 compared with $500m in 2008; and the EU has given $130m less. Britain’s promise of $69m (£43.5m) this year is nearly $100m (£63m) less than 2008, and, if nothing more is given, will be its lowest contribution since 2001.

An Oxfam spokesperson says there are “more than 16,000 children already dying from hunger-related causes every day.”

And in the United States, hunger is growing.

AP reports: The number of seniors living alone who seek help from food pantries in the U.S. increased 81 percent to 408,000 in 2008, compared to 225,000 in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Overall, 4.7 million households used American food pantries in 2008, compared to about 3.7 million in 2006.

MPR reports: At Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, food pantry visits increased 77 percent in September and October.  … Hunger Solutions Minnesota, a statewide hunger-relief organization, said Minnesota’s 300 food pantries have seen an average 26 percent increase in visits compared to the same time last year. In the Twin Cities, visits are up by 43 percent.

The New York Times reports: With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children.

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