The Not-So-Hungry

America is the most plentiful country in the world, particularly food-wise, but we seem to have a deep-rooted fear of going without. From grown men to small children and everyone in between, we hate being hungry. Hunger causes all of us to gradually collapse into pitiful drama queens. Unsatisfied, “I’m hungry” quickly becomes “I’m starving.” Cue the dramatics and tears.

In a country brimming with food, why are we such babies about a little hunger here and there? If we don’t answer our growling stomachs, do we just keel over and die? Of course not. We’re advanced, instinctive creatures, programmed to withstand days of famine in between feasts. In a modern country with no legitimate threat of famine, most of us have plenty of excess calories lurking around for our bodies to efficiently use.

As lucky members of a wealthy, first-world developed county, we think of ourselves as much more fragile than we truly are. Our ancestors survived under threat of great predators, brutal decades-long wars, disease and likely much more famine than feast. Yet here we are. Think about it – when they were hungry they had to actually go out and catch a pig/cow/rabbit, kill it, and lug it all the way back home.

There are millions of people across the globe, some within our own borders, that spend some or most of their days hungry. Not “I need lunch” hungry, but hungry hungry. No-food-in-the-fridge, drink-water-before-bed hungry. Hunger is a real issue, but not really for us; the UN reports that a staggering 98% of the world’s starving people live in developing countries. During my study abroad trip to Cambodia, I was appalled by how small the population was, largely due to a lack of protein and steady food supply. I taught a seven-year-old that felt as light as a toddler; I was convinced he couldn’t be any older than three. The kids we worked with had little to nothing, yet I never heard any of them complain about hunger. It’s part of their life. Even more, every family we visited insisted that we say and eat what little food they had to put on the table.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to say we’re hungry, but that a vast majority of us have absolutely no idea what hunger really is.

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