Our world is filled with hungry people. Hunger, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1971), has three meanings:

·  The uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite. Also the exhausted condition caused by want of food.

·  The want or scarcity of food in a country.

·  A strong desire or craving.

World hunger refers to the second definition, aggregated to the world level. The related technical term is malnutrition. Malnutrition is a general term that indicates a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health.

Estimates indicate there are more than 1 billion hungry people in the world. Most of these people live outside the developed parts of the world.

However, that does not mean hungry people don’t exist where you live. The following poverty statistics from 2009 summarize hunger in the United States.

· 43.6 million people (14.3 percent) were in poverty.

· 8.8 million families (11.1 percent) were in poverty.

· 24.7 million people (12.9 percent) from 18 to 64 years old were in poverty.

· 15.5 million children (20.7 percent) younger than 18 years old were in poverty.

· 3.4 million senior citizens (8.9 percent) who were 65 years old or older were in poverty.

I serve as chairperson for an ecumenical advocacy group called Missouri Christians Against Racism and Poverty. Over the past year, our group has repeatedly received information regarding the increasing number of hungry people in our state. The economic downturn has forced many families into poverty. What is our responsibility? How should a Christian respond to the hunger problems around the world?

This year we have begun a new level of partnership with the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. We are collaborating with our brothers and sisters in Texas to promote our World Hunger Offering. Some of the funds we receive will ultimately help to meet hunger needs here in Missouri. They will also help to address needs across our nation. Through the Baptist World Alliance, we will help to meet global hunger needs.

Traditionally, we have promoted our World Hunger Offering during October; however, beginning next year we will provide resources to help Missouri churches learn about poverty and hunger needs throughout the year. We cannot meet the challenges of world hunger with an offering we promote only one month a year.

As we seek to share hope with our state and our world, I want to encourage you to explore new ways to challenge your church members to find ways to get involved in eliminating the poverty in your state, our nation and the world. We have to find ways to do as Jesus did – feed the hungry.

Jim Hill is executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. This column appeared originally on his blog.

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