“Dinner’s ready!”

by Shen Tao

I have never thought that hunger was or will be my problem as I grow up. In the news, I heard and saw that in some parts of my country and some areas in the world, hungry people were and are dying, while many other people are doing what they can to help. Yet, after all, hunger is not one of the most frequent words that I use or hear daily, except that I always yelled to my mom “I’m starving, what’s for dinner?” when I was in high school. I never knew what hunger was.

When my grandparents were still with us, they told me heart-breaking stories about their experiences when food was a luxury back in the 1960s in China. For reasons that were so political that I could not understand, people in my home country suffered from a severe shortage of food during that time. It was the time when most people had no idea what they would be eating for their next meal. Tree leaves, grass, and other things became the entree for many families. Yet no matter how I re-tell the stories that my grandparents told me, it is not enough for me to understand the danger of food shortage and insecurity. I never truly understood hunger.

Africa has always been the place I dream about visiting due to the beauty of its natural scenery. However, when I was exposed to those pictures of starving people, I saw the image of nature’s cruelty instead of its beauty. Crops would not grow; rain stayed away. 10.9 million children under five died in developing countries year after year. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases caused and continue to cause 60 percent of those deaths (The State of the World’s Children, UNICEF, 2007) . It is painful for me even to think about how many kids we will lose by the time I finish writing all these words and while I am struggling to figure out what I can do to make a difference. However, these words barely touch the surface of the hunger issue.

When nature is playing cruel, there is no one but ourselves who can help and solve these problems. In this health seminar class, we are trying to help. We have already done some amazing things, such as the food packaging event for Somali refugees in Kenya, and raising public awareness of hunger problems. However, given the limitation of our influence, it is very difficult for a few of us to help with the starving children in Africa. Instead we can only focus on the hunger around us, hunger on campus. It seems that what we can do is limited, yet there is an idiom in China, “there is no good that is too small to be worth doing.” What we do is not small at all. We are trying to know about hunger, to understand it and ask people to join us addressing the issue, then, hopefully one day we will find a solution to it.

“Dinner’s ready!” Many of us can fondly recall how excited we were when we heard this from our moms as they walked to the dinner table with well-prepared dishes in their hands. Now that I am living with my girlfriend and we cook by ourselves, it is still an exciting thing every time we finish preparing a meal and sometimes we still say that out loud, “Dinner’s ready”. I do hope this short but strong sentence is the most frequently heard one in every home all across the world.

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