I worked the weighing station, where my job was to weigh the bags filled with a high-protein dry soup mix—a cup of soy powder, a scoop of dried vegetables, plus a vitamin tablet and a cup of rice—and add or subtract rice as necessary to ensure each bag weighed between 380 and 385 grams (a little less than a pound). Then the bag was sealed and placed in a carton to be shipped to a spot in the world where people are chronically hungry.
Raleigh-based Stop Hunger Now. along with thousands of North Carolina college student volunteers, prepared for shipment more than one million pounds of dried food during the day-long University Million Meal event that took place last month at local campuses.
Stop Hunger Now was founded 10 years ago by the Rev. Ray Buchanan, a Methodist minister and former U.S. Marine. "Stop Hunger Now thinks hunger is the biggest obscenity of our age, bar none," Buchanan said, rock music blaring in the background at N.C. State. "As people of faith, we have a special responsibility to feed those who are hungry, and if we're not doing that, our spirituality is suspect as far as I'm concerned.
"There's no need preaching the gospel—which is good news to the poor—unless you provide them food. For the hungry, food is good news."
Eliminating hunger has been the goal of relief organizations for decades, and until recently, the only thing impeding the effort has been a lack of will on the part of developed nations. There's always been enough foodstuffs produced globally to feed the world's people, but the vast majority of grains are grown to feed livestock. Now, as oil stocks run dry, a new problem is fast arising that could lead to the world's worst food shortages ever: food used to make biodiesel.
"We now have a perfect storm where there is a competition between food and fuel, which is crazy," said Douglas Casson Coutts of the United Nations World Food Program. "Until recently, fuel was oil from the ground and was used to make power or run automobiles, and food was for people. Never the two shall meet, and now more food is being used to fuel these vehicles and less food is then available.
"The irony is that there's enough food to feed the world. There has been for a long time."
Coutts, who was on hand for the million-meal event, said approximately 850 million people are chronically hungry. Typically, they are people who earn a dollar a day but must spend 80 cents of that dollar on their next meal.
The effects of the crisis are being felt in every region of the world, and the desperation of those suffering from hunger could become a global security issue, Buchanan said. "There is the risk for another billion people to go into extreme hunger," he said. "The food is available. It's just being priced out of reach of those who need it."
For more information, go to www.stophungernow.org or call 839-0689.
The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest, will speak in all three major Triangle cities later this month to promote his campaign to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formally known as the School of the Americas).
A Vietnam War veteran and founder of SOA Watch (soaw.org), Bourgeois has spent more than four years in prison for nonviolent resistance to the United States' policy in Latin America.
The U.S. Army school, dubbed the "School of Assassins" by its opponents, has trained more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers since 1949. Many SOA graduates have been implicated in human rights violations and murders in their home countries.
SOA Watch sponsors an annual November witness at the gates of Ft. Benning in Columbus, Ga. The protest has drawn more than 20,000 people.
Bourgeois has several speaking engagements: Carol Woods Retirement Community, 750 Weaver Dairy Road, Chapel Hill, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m.; Fayetteville Street Mall, downtown Raleigh, Oct. 1, at noon; First Presbyterian Church, 305 E. Main St., Durham, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m.; N.C. State Talley Hall, Oct. 2, at 1 p.m.; and UNC-Chapel Hill Mandela Auditorium, Oct. 2, 6:30 p.m.
It's a one-two punch for the Triangle's progressive community to lose two outstanding faith-based leaders in the cause of peace and justice: Catholic Sister Kitty Bethea and Episcopal priest the Rev. John Zunes are leaving the Triangle at the end of September.
Bethea has been a strong advocate for just treatment and equality for Latinos and has spent 20 years working with that community throughout the state. She has also been a mainstay in the anti-war and anti-death penalty movements.
Bethea said it was her sense of mission that drew her to North Carolina in 1986 to work with migrant farm workers. She felt a similar calling to minister to people in need in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Bethea will be joining a new convent of her Adrian Dominican order in that city.
Zunes, who moved to Chapel Hill in 1962, is moving to California to be closer to his son, writer and Middle East peace activist Stephen Zunes. John's wife, Helen Zunes, died in 2004. The pair spent more than 50 years working together for peace and justice in the Triangle.
Zunes, who also served on the staff of Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church, is a mainstay on Friday afternoons at the corner of Elliott Road and Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, where activists have gathered for years to vigil against the Iraq war.
"It has just been a real honor for me to have your presence with us on that corner for so many years, and Helen's too," Lenore Yarger of the Silk Hope Catholic Worker told Zunes during a recent potluck supper in his honor. "You all will always be there with us, and hopefully one day we will be out of Iraq and we can move on to other issues, but you have helped me keep going on that corner and I really am grateful for that."
Martin Jacobs simply wants us all to get along. In 1997, Jacobs, a practicing Jew who worships at two Raleigh congregations, presented an idea to The Interfaith Alliance of Wake County. As the Alliance's ethics chair, Jacobs, 75, wanted to arrange "a compilation of ethics and morals so people didn't have to fight."
After scores of meetings, the TIA ethics committee printed "The Ethical Framework," a pocket-sized, sturdy, two-sided document (unfolded it measures 23 inches by 17 inches) that Jacobs says lays out a plan for a more just world in which people listen to one other and work together to solve problems nonviolently.
The Ethical Framework includes four principles: Be for people rather than against people; strive for harmony; respect the wonder of life; and accept responsibility as a member of society.
Ethical behavior may require a standard that goes beyond the limits of laws. "The only standard we have now is legal and illegal," Jacobs said. When a politician is accused of unethical behavior, she or he might offer the defense, "I have done nothing illegal," he added. "But they may have done terrible things."
Jacobs and co-presenter Ricardo Perez are promoting The Ethical Framework to churches and other groups. For more information, go to www.interfaithalliance-nc.org or call Jacobs at 781-8490.