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Katelynne Lingaas Essay on "The City That Ended Hunger"

Katelynne Lingaas, a student in Julie Ruth's sophomore language arts class at West Valley High School in Fairbanks, Alaska, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, "The City That Ended Hunger" by Frances Moore Lappé.

Prompt: In the article, "The City That Ended Hunger," Lappe says, "Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food but a scarcity of democracy." What does she mean? How does this statement reflect upon Belo Horizonte?

Read classmate Courtney Kisner's response to the same article here.


True Democracy

By Katelynne Lingaas

In the article, "The City That Ended Hunger," Lappé says, "Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food but a scarcity of democracy." What does she mean? How does this statement reflect on Belo Horizonte?

 ABC bulk produce markets stock the items that the city determines will be sold at a fixed price, about 13 cents per pound. Photo by Leah Rimkus
ABC bulk produce markets stock the items that the city determines will be sold at a fixed price, about 13 cents per pound.
Photo by Leah Rimkus

The first line of the article reads, “Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food but a scarcity of democracy.” This caught me off guard and I disagreed with it; however, I didn’t know what the real definition of democracy was until I looked it up. In Webster’s Dictionary it says that democracy is “the principle of equality of rights, opportunity, and treatment, or the practice of this principle.” It still didn’t make any sense to me why democracy and hunger would be so closely related. As I read the article, the answers to my questions were found, and we see that democracy helped to get the people of Belo Horizonte the right to food. This helped those producing the food and in the end resulted in a healthy, well-fed community.

This is the first time I had ever heard that a group of people “declared food a right of citizenship.” I think that this is an ingenious idea because to survive and be a worthy citizen one needs food to sustain the body. With this nutrition there are more people healthy enough to work, thus increasing the number of exports out of the city, which then puts more money in the budget for food. This idea of “food-as-a-right” gives everyone a fair chance at life, and if they don’t succeed it is not because of lack of food, but lack of motivation; however, those that have a satisfied stomach are more likely to give work as much effort as they can.

Thus the people that produce the food are desperately needed and become the most important workers in society. As it was the “farmers’ profits grew, since there was no wholesaler taking a cut.” Through this they become motivated as well because they had a secure financial life. Before, if there was a bad season only they would suffer, but now the entire community suffers. Because the community came together to feed each other, they will undoubtedly still come together to survive if their crops have an off year. In this system no one group of people suffers without the others there to help.

This food plan helped “poor people get access to fresh, healthy food,” instead of cheap processed trash. The community even became creative with what they used for products such as flour: “In one successful experiment, egg shells, manioc leaves, and other material normally thrown away were ground and mixed into flour for school kids’ daily bread.” Having a healthy community is important when there are diseases or other sicknesses. It also makes everyone stronger for working, and the able to contribute what they can to improve the city. Brilliant ideas and planning lead to the development of healthy children and adults who otherwise wouldn’t have been given the chance to have a life worth living. For this the city will benefit in the future.

If we take this solution to the problem of hunger seriously, we see that as people we do deserve a right to food, and, if given this right, we can create a healthier society that is capable of accomplishing many things. I believe that we should work towards giving others the opportunity to make something of their lives because through this we could become a much more advanced society. Some of the poor people we see on the side of the street could be hard working and smart, but we can’t see this because we are looking at them through a lens of selfishness. Until this lens is removed and we are willing to reach out, we will not be a real democracy. As Americans under a “democracy,” we should aspire to conquer hunger like Belo Horizonte, who through their effort to sustain life and give everyone an equal opportunity, they helped their city grow into an advanced, caring society that is truly a democracy.

 


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