Due to the increase of famine, malnutrition and poverty in South Africa, St. John’s was encouraged to do more to help others at the World Famine Day on Oct. 16 in Marillac Hall.
“The famine and widespread disease in South Africa are creating a humanitarian crisis. This is such an issue because it raises questions that need answers,” Barrett Brenton, assistant professor of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and host speaker, said.
Brenton presented a frightening display of statistics depicting an increase in malnutrition and poverty in developing nations.
Brenton said 800 million people are suffering from malnutrition, 200 million of them are children. “And in the last 50 years, 400 million people have died of unsanitary conditions and starvation.”
According to Brenton, massive famine was created by long-term droughts, crop failure an political unrest.
“I was utterly shocked as to how many children there are currently suffering without food and shelter,” Diana Abramon, a speech major, said.
Brenton disclosed methods of intervention to serve as plausible solutions for South Africa, including the immediate provision of food to ailing countries and an improvement of basic nutritional education.
“Because we often lose focus, we are trying to make people more aware of what is going about this issue through education and advocacy,” Brenton said.
“It is important for us as a Vincentian university to help the poor and concentrate on ways to rid the world of starvation and poverty,” Sister Margaret John Kelly, the executive director of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society, said.
Pat Tracy, a representative from Campus Ministry, discussed locally accessible service opportunities available for St. John’s students like the Bread and Life Program.
Tracy urged community involvement to restore hope and human dignity for the needy.
“Just be afraid not to do anything,” Tracy said. “The point of advocacy begins not with what we can do, but what we can do starting today.”
A soup kitchen located in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn serves as the heart of the program, driven to provide balanced meals and promote healthier lives for their daily guests.
Tracy stressed the importance of the community’s role in its operations, because a large percentage of the funding and support are allocated through public donations and volunteers.
Some students were unaware of the service opportunities available on campus.
“This presentation opened my awareness to opportunities that I didn’t even know existed,” Angela Hernandez, a government and politics major, said.
Brenton coordinated the conference in conjunction with the Vincentian Center to promote education and advocacy regarding the global issue of hunger within the St. John’s community.
“We want to make people more aware of activities right here on campus and within the surrounding Metropolitan area,” Brenton said.
One of the University’s goals is to get involved with the National World Food Day Teleconference held in Washington, D.C. as early as next year, Brenton said.
Since 1981, the Teleconference is observed each year to recognize the founding of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, which provides food to international countries around the world. The conference is sponsored by 450 national, private and voluntary organizations.
National World Food Day planning is done on the community level, allowing local coalitions to work with affiliates of national sponsors to educate schools, businesses and services groups on massive famine around the world and to come up with ideas on ways they can help curb the starvation in the world.