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Hunger  

Neil E. Rowland

Hunger is a specific and compelling sensation, sometimes arising from internal signals of nutrient depletion but more often modulated by numerous environmental variables including taste or palatability and ease or cost of procurement. Hunger motivates appetitive or foraging behaviors to find food followed by appropriate proximate or consummatory behaviors to eat it. A critical concept underlying food intake is the flux of chemical energy through an organism. This starts with inputs of food with particular energy content, storage of excess energy as adipose tissue or glycogen, and finally energy expenditure as resting metabolic rate (RMR) or as metabolic rate is modified by physical activity. These concepts are relevant within the context of adequate theoretical accounts based in energy homeostasis; historically, these are mainly static models, although it is now clear that these do not address practical issues such as weight gain through life. Eating is essentially an episodic behavior, often clustered as meals, and this has led to the idea that the meal is a central theoretical concept, but demonstrations that meal patterns are greatly influenced by the environment present a challenge to this tenet. Patterns of eating acquired during infancy and early life may also play a role in establishing adult norms. Direct controls of feeding are those that emphasize food itself as generating internal signals to modify or terminate an ongoing bout of eating, and include a variety of enteroendocrine hormones and brainstem mechanisms. Additionally, many studies point to the essential rewarding or hedonic aspects of food intake, including palatability, and this may involve integrative mechanisms in the forebrain and cerebral cortex.

Article

Maryah Stella Fram

This entry provides an overview of current knowledge and thinking about the nature, causes, and consequences of food insecurity as well as information about the major policies and programs aimed at alleviating food insecurity in the United States. Food insecurity is considered at the nexus of person and environment, with discussion focusing on the biological, psychological, social, and economic factors that are interwoven with people’s access to and utilization of food. The diversity of experiences of food insecurity is addressed, with attention to issues of age, gender, culture, and community context. Finally, implications for social work professionals are suggested.

Article

Food insecurity and hunger are serious problems around the world, with an estimated 870 million people chronically undernourished. The vast majority of these people—an estimated 14.9%—live in developing countries. Although federal food and nutrition assistance programs and the generally high standard of living in the United States have eliminated the more extreme forms of hunger found in developing countries, less severe but nonetheless serious forms of hunger and food insecurity affect millions of households. Food and nutrition programs require adequate funding, increased access, and further evaluation, but to achieve the goals of ending hunger and assuring food security for all, multisectoral strategies that address the macro-level determinants of food security are needed.

Article

Luther not only wrote about charity and social ethics throughout much of his life; he also experienced the conditions that were the object of Christian generosity and ethical reflection. This essay suggests that his study of the Bible and Church Fathers was not the only source of Luther’s writings and revolutionary programs. His experience of deprivation as a child and a monk, his encounters with the homeless poor of Wittenberg, and his observation of corrupt business practices and failed political leadership played significant roles in his sensitivity to the scriptures and the history of ecclesial care for the poor. The rise of social history and the use of social scientific methods have drawn attention to the economic, political, and social context in which Luther lived and to which he responded throughout his life. The reformer’s works on charity and social ethics did not emerge in a vacuum. His initial public foray focused on the “spiritual economy” of the late medieval church, which discriminated against many of Luther’s poor parishioners. While the Ninety-Five Theses raised serious questions about the sacrament of penance, the role of indulgences, and the authority of the pope, the text also reveals Luther’s early concern for the poor, who were frightened into buying spiritual favors for themselves or their dead relatives. In addition to theological problems, Luther recognized the ethical dimension of this large-scale sales campaign that benefited archbishops and the Vatican treasury. Luther’s rediscovery of the Pauline teaching on justification by grace alone reoriented Christians toward life in this world. Rather than spend effort or money on spiritual exercises that might win one God’s favor in the afterlife, human energies could be directed toward alleviating present suffering. A dialectical thinker, Luther insisted on holding together two seemingly irreconcilable claims, two disparate texts, two discordant images in order to raise the question: How is one related to the other? His teaching on justification claims that God always advances toward a suffering humanity first and that this advance is revealed with utter clarity in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who incarnates God’s desire to free human beings from the deathly presence of anxious religion and give them “life, health, and salvation.” But such freedom must be used for the good of one’s neighbor who suffers within the economic, political, and social fabric of life. The advance of God, who is mercy and grace, continues into the world through Christ and his body. This essay suggests that while Luther animated significant contributions to biblical studies and theology, a body of ethical teaching has been harder to discern among his followers. Perhaps this hesitancy arose out of fear that an emphasis on ethics would be construed as a lapse into what Luther called “works righteousness.” This essay considers a number of the ethical questions and crises that faced Luther, which have not subsided and ask for contemporary investigation. A remarkable achievement of Luther’s reform was a revolutionary change in social assistance. The monastic communities of western Europe had long served as centers of hospitality and charity, and the order in which the young Luther made his vows was a reforming order committed to austerity of life and care for the urban poor. For theological reasons, Luther promoted the suppression of the monasteries and vilified the mendicant orders, but this left a gap in care for the growing population of homeless peasants seeking work in urban centers. The reform of social assistance undertaken in the small “Lutheran” town of Leisnig, Germany, in the early 16th century would become the model for many church orders throughout Germany and Scandinavia, influencing today’s state-run and tax-funded assistance to needy families. Recently, ethicists and Luther scholars have reassessed his reform of charity to ask how the reformer’s social teaching might support engagement with a wide range of present-day social movements. Increased study of Luther’s social writings and the study of evangelical “church orders,” previously marginalized in the academy, offers promising avenues for continued research. This essay also compares three forms of charity—Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Reformed—illustrating the symbiotic relationship between social ethics and theology and underscoring the role of theological priorities in the conceptualization of social assistance. Finally, this essay considers Luther’s writings on social ethics. Frequently, interpreters of this focus on “faith active in love,” or the utility of his distinction between two kingdoms or governments. Such studies offer a biblical or theological grounding for Lutheran ethics yet frequently overlook the actual crises or practices he encountered. Luther was not a “systematic” theologian, and one must search through his many writings to discover his “ethical” teachings. Luther scholars and historians of social ethics are increasingly interested in the specific ethical questions he was asked to discuss by those who had accepted his reform. The growing popularity of his reform movement and the seismic shift in Christian thought and practice it animated left Luther little time to construct a well-ordered corpus of social teaching, yet many of his concerns are vitally alive in the world today albeit within a different context. Many of his concerns were enlightened by his study of scripture, in which he recognized a mirror of his own turbulent era.

Article

Erica Ashbaugh and Gary A. Goreham

Bread for the World, Inc. is a 501(c)4 faith-based organization whose purpose is to advocate policymakers to end hunger and poverty. The organization began in the early 1970s, founded by Arthur Simon, who became its first president. Simon’s 1975 book, Bread for the World, outlined the vision and scope of the organization, not as a service-delivery entity but as an education, coalition-building, and advocacy organization. David Beckmann, author of Exodus from Hunger: We Are Called to Change the Politics of Hunger, is the organization’s president as of 1991. The organization is supported by individuals, local congregations, denominations, and other organizations. Two related affiliates were created to assist in the hunger-ending goal. First, Bread for the World Institute, a 501(c)3 organization, conducts research on domestic and global hunger issues and disseminates reports to those advocating for hunger-ending policy with its Annual Hunger Report. Second, the Alliance to End Hunger, a 501(c)3 organization, brings together a wide range of both faith-based and secular organizations in the fight against hunger. Bread for the World has a noteworthy history of advocacy and collaboration. They actively advocated in 2000 for Jubilee 2000, a debt relief and forgiveness program for over 40 countries. They promoted the African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2000 to promote quality of life, human rights, and equitable trade relationships between the United States and African countries. Bread for the World advocated for the Food for Peace Acts and the 2016 Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act to extend foreign aid more quickly and efficiently. They worked with legislators regarding the Head Start programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program. Bread for the World used a Feed Our Children letter-writing campaign for individuals to put pressure on legislators to place priority on children’s food programs. As winner of the World Food Prize in 2010, David Beckmann stated, “We must talk to real people in power, about concrete issues, and not about big dreams.” Bread for the World’s goal is the UN’s Sustainability Development Goal to eliminate hunger by 2030.

Article

There are continuing developments in the analysis of hunger and famines, and the results of theoretical and empirical studies of hunger and food insecurity highlight cases where hunger intensifies sufficiently to be identified as famine. The varying ability of those affected to cope with the shocks and stresses imposed on them are central to the development of food insecurity and the emergence of famine conditions and to explaining the complex interrelationships between agriculture, famine, and economics. There are a number of approaches to understanding how famines develop. The Malthusian approach, which sees population growth as the primary source of hunger and famine, can be contrasted with the free market or Smithian approach, which regards freely operating markets as an essential prerequisite for ensuring that famine can be overcome. A major debate has centered on whether famines primarily emerge from a decline in the availability of food or are a result of failure by households to access sufficient food for consumption, seeking to distinguish between famine as a problem related to food production and availability and famine as a problem of declining income and food consumption among certain groups in the population. These declines arise from the interaction between food markets, labor markets and markets for livestock and other productive farm resources when poor people try to cope with reduced food consumption. Further revisions to famine analysis were introduced from the mid-1990s by authors who interpreted the emergence of famines not as a failure in markets and the economic system, but more as a failure in political accountability and humanitarian response. These approaches have the common characteristic that they seek to narrow the focus of investigation to one or a few key characteristics. Yet most of those involved in famine analysis or famine relief would stress the multi-faceted and broad-based nature of the perceived causes of famine and the mechanisms through which they emerge. In contrast to these approaches, the famine systems approach takes a broader view, exploring insights from systems theory to understand how famines develop and especially how this development might be halted, reversed, or prevented. Economists have contributed to and informed different perspectives on famine analysis while acknowledging key contributions from moral philosophy as well as from biological and physical sciences and from political and social sciences. Malthus, Smith, and John Stuart Mill contributed substantially to early thinking on famine causation and appropriate famine interventions. Increased emphasis on famine prevention and a focus on food production and productivity led to the unarguable success of the Green Revolution. An important shift in thinking in the 1980s was motivated by Amartya Sen’s work on food entitlements and on markets for food and agricultural resources. On the other hand, the famine systems approach considers famine as a process governed by complex relationships and seeks to integrate contributions from economists and other scientists while promoting a systems approach to famine analysis.

Article

It is conceptually reasonable to explore how the evolution of behavior involves changes in neural circuitry. Progress in determining this evolutionary relationship has been limited in neuroscience because of difficulties in identifying individual neurons that contribute to the evolutionary development of behaviors across species. However, the results from the feeding systems of gastropod mollusks provide evidence for this concept of co-evolution because the evolution of different types of feeding behaviors in this diverse group of mollusks is mirrored by species-specific changes in neural circuitry. The evolution of feeding behaviors involves changes in the motor actions that allow diverse food items to be acquired and ingested. The evolution in neural control accompanies this variation in food and the associated changes in flexibility of feeding behaviors. This is present in components of the feeding network that are involved in decision making, rhythm generation, and behavioral switching but is absent in background mechanisms that are conserved across species, such as those controlling arousal state. These findings show how evolutionary changes, even at the single neuron level, closely reflect the details of behavioral evolution.

Article

Gerard J. van den Berg and Maarten Lindeboom

Modern-day famines are caused by unusual impediments or interventions in society, effectively imposing severe market restrictions and preventing the free movement of people and goods. Long-run health effects of exposure to famine are commonly studied to obtain insights into the long-run effects of malnutrition at early ages. This line of research has faced major methodological and data challenges. Recent research in various disciplines, such as economics, epidemiology, and demography, has made great progress in dealing with these issues. Malnutrition around birth affects a range of later-life individual outcomes, including health, educational, and economic outcomes.