With the economy tanking and world food prices skyrocketing, concerns about world food supplies, are increasingly taking center stage.
The BBC today published the results of a poll it conducted across 26 countries, asking people for their opinions on rising food prices. Sixty percent stated that higher prices are affecting them a great deal. International and internal conflicts, the energy crisis - and the resulting controversy over biofuel subsidies - have further escalated the situation. According to Oxfam, over 900 million people now face starvation because of soaring prices. That's more stomachs growling than the populations of the US, Canada and the EU combined.
And yet, even before food prices were front-page news, even before regular polls were conducted and celebrities wielded their star power for good, hunger has always been one of the world's most pressing issues.
Today, on World Food Day, international humanitarian aid organization, Mercy Corps pointed to this, cutting the ribbon on a new initiative: The Action Center to End World Hunger. Located in downtown Manhattan in a 4000-foot interactive space, the Center aims to educate and motivate visitors to take action to end global hunger.
Through its new endeavor, MercyCorps has pledged to cut world hunger in half by 2015 by making US aid more effective, making trade fair, helping people around the world adapt to climate change, and encouraging US citizen participation and government accountability with the ultimate goal to respect and uphold people's right to food.
MercyCorps, which works on everything from women's issues to education to natural disaster relief, was selected by the Battery Park City Authority in 2005 to receive a $1.25 million grant to develop the space. The organization has paid the Authority a token $10 for a 30-year lease on the area.
There's a saying: the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic. The Action Center primarily uses video as the medium to take impersonal statistics and make them personal. "We don't want to make people leave here feeling hopeless however," cautions Mercy Corps's Communications Officer, Helen Thompson. "We stress solutions – what is being done and what people can do."
Features include a briefing room offering a video of Tina Fey speaking about world hunger, the center, and what people can do; a large, interactive Google Earth map that allows one to zoom in on specific communities to learn about relief and development efforts in those regions; regularly updated video blogs from aid workers and others offering first hand accounts of the food crisis and efforts to end hunger; four wide screen television hubs that focus on how specific issues in particular regions all contribute to world hunger and outlines the solutions currently being implemented; and computers where you can sit down and explore your options to take direct action to mitigate the crisis — right now.
Full time educators will conduct workshops of up to 2 hours, which aim to educate an audience of primarily middle and high school children about world hunger issues.
The Action Center's website is a key part of its endeavor – it offers almost all the information available at the Center, including how to contribute in tangible ways, depending on how much time you have – a minute, hour, day, week, month, year or a lifetime.
Over the next few days, to mark "hunger action week", the Center has organized a series of events.
Plans for the near future include using the space to hold regular events to highlight MercyCorps's work and the issue at large, featuring and displaying information from an increasing number of other organizations that do similar work in an attempt to accelerate impact, and opening a similar center in Portland, Oregon next year.