Ending Hunger in America, 2014 Hunger Report Introduction - Page 5

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe At the UN General Assembly in September 2013, John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda speaks about the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as part of a high-level panel forum convened by SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon. 14?Introduction n We don’t have to look far to see that goals drive progress. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been remarkably successful in driving progress against global hunger and poverty. When the goals were launched in 2000, every country pledged to cut extreme poverty and hunger in the developing world in half by 2015. As the end date approaches, it turns out we are on track to achieve them. The MDGs have clearly resonated with world leaders and ordinary citizens in far-flung places. While developing countries have been making progress, however, in the United States we’ve been headed in the other direction. Development is a word that means many things to many people. In the United States, development tends to be used in the sense of economic development. It’s about increasing the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Before the MDGs, the conventional development yardstick in developing countries was also growth in GDP. But the MDG yardstick focused on human dignity and people’s well-being. A goal to end hunger in the United States may well broaden our own views of development. The United States has set national goals in the past, and just the idea that “we have a goal” has been successful in focusing the attention of those whose help is needed to make it happen. Most of us know about the goal to land a man on the moon, but there are other examples that are more relevant to ending hunger. At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States set a goal to provide a free high school education to every child. Parents at the time demanded it. As any parent knows, lack of education is closely associated with poverty. By the middle of the twentieth century, the United States had the most educated workforce and military on the planet.8 The generation of Americans who fought in World War II and set the United States on the longest period of broad-based prosperity in the nation’s history had years more education than their peers elsewhere in the world. Another example of national goal-setting came in the 1960s, when President Lyndon Johnson set a goal to end poverty. And in fact, the so-called War on Poverty that he launched was a catalyst for dramatic reductions in poverty. Progress continued during the Nixon administration, which expanded the Food Stamp Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), leading to impressive reductions in hunger. When the economy stalled in the mid-1970s, however, the country’s commitment to fighting poverty flagged. Hunger and poverty are a package deal. They reinforce each other. See Figure i.3. Federal Bread for the World Institute