A word for hunger fighters: What is hunger, and what can we do about it?


Definitions are very important for the reason that they tell us the areas a given word can apply. Put differently, they set out the boundaries of a word’s applicability. In the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, the word come is shown to be capable of applying in 9 different contexts and can be used to form many phrases. When we talk about hunger in the sphere of poverty reduction, we’re wont to alluding to just one meaning of hunger and this is inappropriate. Its inappropriateness leans against the backdrop that we’re cowed into holding a single story of hunger. “And the problem with single stories,” observed Chimamanda Adichie, “is not that they’re untrue, but that they’re incomplete.” Of course, we can’t afford to work with “incompleteness” in our fight against hunger.

My dictionary, Macmillan, renders 3 meanings of hunger:

1. A lack of food that can cause illness or death, especially among large numbers of people: STARVATION.
2. The feeling you have when you need to eat something.
3. The feeling you have when you want something very much.

Seen thus, hunger is both a lack and a feeling. And to meaningfully relate with hunger, we must bear these elements, lack and feeling, in mind, and also proffer solutions that gear towards simultaneously dealing with both. Yes, for the one who lacks always feels, while the one who now has but yet feels will soon lack.

My point here is that we’re all hungry in different ways, and are in dire need of hunger reduction and/or eradication. I must immediately add that this hunger issue is so complicated that only a comprehensive solution is the way forward. This complication hinges on the fact that as some people “want something very much,” some other people correspondingly get to “lack food” and other provisions of fundamental relevance to meaningful livelihood.

Let me explain further. Relative to available resources, human wants are insatiable. That notwithstanding, we’re in the know that humanity’s commonwealth can bear the brunt of hunger and starvation. This is a fact, and one testimony in support of it is that Bill Gates’ $86billion net-worth exceeds the yearly budgetary allocation of a number of countries. This is just one man! Of course, I’m not in for the industry argument here; I only demonstrated that we’ve enough.

The way forward

We must preach contentment and simplicity and discipline

Hunger fighters are wont to having recourse to material provisions, especially via governmental budgetary allocations, as the solution, and this is rightly so.

However, this is a quick-fix, and the problem with quick-fixes is that they are not far-reaching. The recent events in Nigeria is exemplary. It was pretty cheap for Buhari to distribute N5000 in lieu of employment, but how far can that amount go in the fight against hunger? He even ends up disowning that promise. And then let’s see how far the N500billion allotted to social security will go. Of course, it can’t go a long way.

Methinks that a bankable way forward – for the interim – are the trio of contentment, simplicity and discipline.

1. Contentment instructs us that while we can’t get it all, we can make do with what we have. Whenever we feel content, hunger is kept abay.

2. Simplicity is even the mother of genius. A simple lifestyle is a rich one, wherein maximum value is derived from lower cost – relative to value. The simple person’s philosophy is: live and let’s live. Of course, flamboyance and ostentatiousness cost real money.

3. Discipline helps us curb our desires. Knowing that hunger keeps recurring and that the joy of having increases by having, we get to know that there is no earthly solution to the problem of hunger. We can’t eat to all our heart’s content in one sitting, and we can’t possibly have it all. What do we do, then? Discipline helps us keep our calm.

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