WHAT IS HUNGER?Everyone knows the feeling of hunger as the urge to eat that signals the time for the next meal. But many know hunger as a constant companion because that meal does not follow. Then hunger is ceaseless discomfort, weakness, and pain. The term as used here means a continuous lack of the nutrients necessary to achieve and maintain optimum health, well-being, and protection from disease. People who live with hunger may simply have too little food to eat, or may not choose enough nutritious foods from those available. One form of hunger is a "choice they are forced to make" and the other is a "choice they freely make". To say this, though, is to fail to describe the depth of the experience of living without food. The following excerpt from a writer in India describes hunger in more personal terms:
For hunger is a curious thing: at first it is with you all the time, waking and sleeping and in your dreams, and your belly cries out insistently, and there is a knawing and a pain as if your very vitals were being devoured, and you must stop it at any cost, and you buy a moment's respite even while you know and fear the sequel. Then the pain is no longer sharp but dull, and this too is with you always, so that you think of food many times a day and each time a terrible sickness assails you, and because you know this you try to avoid the thought, but you cannot, it is with you. Then that too is gone, all pain, all desire, only a great emptiness is left, like the sky, like a well in drought, and it is now that the strength drains from your limbs, and you try to rise and you cannot, or to swallow and your throat is powerless, and both the swallow and the effort of retaining the liquid tax you to the uttermost.
When people in the United States go to the grocery store they have a choice of thousands of products including fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products, as well as countless prepared foods. Few nations in the world have these choices. Even people in some supposedly developed countries have limited food choices.
In the book Mig Pilot, John Barron tells of the escape of Viktor Belenko, a Russian pilot, who defects to the United States. At one point his CIA companions take Viktor to a shopping center. This story illustrates that in many modern countries people have limited resources and only the very rich in many other nations can afford the things that United States citizens often take for granted.
In countries known as third world countries, or developing countries, the food situation is much more severe. In countries such as India, several areas of Africa, and parts of South America hundreds of people die of starvation every day.
It is hard for us to imagine situations like the one described in the poem, THE ARITHMETIC OF POVERTY.
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