Student Nonprofit Alliance hosts hunger campaign

Published by adviser, Author: Catie Clark - Assistant News Editor, Date: April 4, 2013
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The Student Nonprofit Alliance of Slippery Rock University and Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honorary, held a panel discussion Tuesday during common hour to discuss the topic of world hunger.

The panel discussion is part of a week-long “All IZE on Hunger Campaign” hosted by the Student Nonprofit Alliance.

Nicole Geyer, President of Pi Sigma Alpha, moderated the event featuring four professors from different departments on campus.

Panelists included Dr. Donald Kerchis, Assistant Professor of Political Science; Dr. Kolson Schlosser, Instructor of Geography, Geology, and the Environment; Dr. Daniel McIntosh, Associate Professor of Political Science; and Dr. Tom Sparrow, Professor of Philosophy.

First in the panel discussion, Kerchis spoke about global poverty as a human condition.

“You can’t look at global hunger without looking at it in the bigger context of global poverty,” Kerchis said. “Hunger is one of the many, many facets of poverty.”

Kerchis said the part of the problem is the stark misperceptions Americans have.

“It’s not just about an absence of money, it’s about a human condition which is sad, and what makes it so sad is that we have the ability to do something about it and we’re not doing all that we can do.”

As part of his discussion, Kerchis showed a video feature Dr. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and advocate for the UN Millennium Project, which tries to increase foreign aid to countries in need.

Sachs advocates “Quick-win projects” which are made up of small changes that can help African countries astronomically.

“150,000 children are dying of malaria in Africa each month,” Sachs said in the video, “mosquito nets only cost $5 and would save thousands of lives.”

According to Kerchis, the problem is that Americans think we’re doing a lot more than we actually are.

“There is so much we can do to make hunger less of an issue… there is clearly a humanitarian effort to make hunger less of an issue, but we also need to consider political, social, and economic factors as well,” Kerchis said. “Its in the best interest of the United States and every other country to do what they can to end the world’s hunger problem.”

The next speaker in the panel discussion was Dr. Schlosser, who spoke on main criticisms of foreign aid and how they can be debunked.

“The vast majority of Americans will tell you they want to cut foreign aid out of the budget,” Schlosser said.

Schlosser said the main criticism from the left is that there isn’t enough aid.

“Fifty percent of foreign aid is what they call ‘phantom aid’,” Schlosser said.

Phantom aid means that if, for example, France were to give a loan to an African country for infrastructure, they would have to

The Student Nonprofit Alliance of Slippery Rock University and Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honorary, held a panel discussion Tuesday during common hour to discuss the topic of world hunger.

The panel discussion is part of a week-long “All IZE on Hunger Campaign” hosted by the Student Nonprofit Alliance.

Nicole Geyer, President of Pi Sigma Alpha, moderated the event featuring four professors from different departments on campus.

Panelists included Dr. Donald Kerchis, Assistant Professor of Political Science; Dr. Kolson Schlosser, Instructor of Geography, Geology, and the Environment; Dr. Daniel McIntosh, Associate Professor of Political Science; and Dr. Tom Sparrow, Professor of Philosophy.

First in the panel discussion, Kerchis spoke about global poverty as a human condition.

“You can’t look at global hunger without looking at it in the bigger context of global poverty,” Kerchis said. “Hunger is one of the many, many facets of poverty.”

Kerchis said the part of the problem is the stark misperceptions Americans have.

“It’s not just about an absence of money, it’s about a human condition which is sad, and what makes it so sad is that we have the ability to do something about it and we’re not doing all that we can do.”

As part of his discussion, Kerchis showed a video feature Dr. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and advocate for the UN Millennium Project, which tries to increase foreign aid to countries in need.

Sachs advocates “Quick-win projects” which are made up of small changes that can help African countries astronomically.

“150,000 children are dying of malaria in Africa each month,” Sachs said in the video, “mosquito nets only cost $5 and would save thousands of lives.”

According to Kerchis, the problem is that Americans think we’re doing a lot more than we actually are.

“There is so much we can do to make hunger less of an issue… there is clearly a humanitarian effort to make hunger less of an issue, but we also need to consider political, social, and economic factors as well,” Kerchis said. “Its in the best interest of the United States and every other country to do what they can to end the world’s hunger problem.”

The next speaker in the panel discussion was Dr. Schlosser, who spoke on main criticisms of foreign aid and how they can be debunked.

“The vast majority of Americans will tell you they want to cut foreign aid out of the budget,” Schlosser said.

Schlosser said the main criticism from the left is that there isn’t enough aid.

“Fifty percent of foreign aid is what they call ‘phantom aid’,” Schlosser said.

Phantom aid means that if, for example, France were to give a loan to an African country for infrastructure, they would have to then hire a French construction company to do the work, so the money would actually cycle back to France and not actually help advance that country’s economy in any way.

According to Schlosser, critics on the right say that foreign aid creates dependency.

“I think dependency is real, but we have to understand the nature of that argument,” Schlosser said.

Structural dependency can be created, for example, by providing mosquito nets.

“It will put African mosquito net factories out of business because we are providing them for free, so the only way to get them in the future will be from other countries,” Schlosser said. “It’s not that they sit there and think ‘you owe us mosquito nets’, it’s that they sit there and think ‘the only way to get mosquito nets is to get them from other countries’.”

Schlosser closed with the idea that there are many criticisms of foreign aid, and it’s important to know why some criticisms are accurate, but some can be debunked.

Dr. McIntosh spoke third in the line-up about the politics of international hunger.

“The problem as I see it is not putting food in people’s mouths…actually, food is wasted,” McIntosh said.

McIntosh argued that students can be naïve, and not all people are nice.

“Some don’t care, some don’t know, and some want others to be hungry some of the time because it serves their purposes.”

For an example, McIntosh said that in North Korea food is a status symbol, as well as a tool for keeping control.

“Once a week a plane from North Korea flies to a McDonald’s in China to bring a sack full of Big Macs back to the North Korean Generals,” McIntosh said. “McDonald’s is a status symbol in North Korea.”

According to McIntosh, a successful dictator gives food his friends and takes it away from his enemies so they can’t bother him.

McIntosh said in modern times, ways of keeping food from people include sanctions and blockades in foreign countries.

Ultimately, McIntosh argued that solving world hunger is not about filling people’s stomachs; it is about making sure they have the right nutrients.

“Under nutrition is the cause of almost 3.5 million maternal and child deaths per year and 35 percent of disease burden in children who are under the age of five,” McIntosh said.

According to McIntosh, there are many reasons the issue of world hunger has to be solved including lack of infrastructure, intellectual property laws on seeds, basic health care, parasites, technologies, and changes in corporate agro-business models.

“As citizens, consumers, and volunteers we can be more involved,” McIntosh said. “Getting information, voting, spreading the word, and joining anti-poverty programs would all be beneficial.”

Dr. Sparrow spoke on the ethics of hunger, and related to a book called ‘The Life you Can Save” by Peter Singer.

“The author’s idea is that by spending money on things we don’t need, rather than donating a little bit of money, then we are doing something wrong and living morally corrupt lives,” Sparrow said.

Sparrow said the book used the scenario of a drowning child.

“If you bought a new pair of shoes and wore them on your walk to work one morning, and noticed a child drowning in a shallow pond, would you go in to save him and ruin your new shoes,” Sparrow asked.

According to Sparrow, Singer argues in his book that if you would ruin a pair of shoes to save a child, then you shouldn’t have bought the shoes in the first place and donated that money to people in need.

Sparrow also argued that part of the problem with Americans giving money is a problem of invisibility.

“It’s a psychological barrier, not a moral barrier,” Sparrow said. “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Sparrow said to fix this issue, we need to create a culture of giving, where we think of others and charity before our own self-interests.

The panel discussion is part of a weeklong hunger awareness campaign “All IZE on Hunger Campaign” hosted by the Student Nonprofit Alliance. Other events included a “Hunger is No Joke” pledge, and an upcoming Food Drive and Hunger Banquet on April 9.

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