The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago hosted its latest meeting on Feb. 6 on the timely subject of “Food Security – What Israel can do to help Feed the World.”
JCRC Vice Chair Ellen Hattenbach, also chair of the JUF Hunger Awareness Project, welcomed Daniel Chamovitz, Director of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences and founder of the Program in Food Safety and Security at Tel Aviv University. Ellen thanked American Friends of Tel Aviv University for bringing Daniel to speak to the JCRC.
Chamovitz, a graduate of Columbia University and Hebrew University, where he received his Ph.D. in Genetics, discussed food insecurity and hunger around the world. He said that of the 7 billion people in the world, about half are food insecure, including many who are hungry and undernourished. He also discussed how the mirror image of hunger is obesity, with over 10 percent of the world’s population being obese, including in North America, Europe and parts of the Middle East, where obesity is seen as a symbol of wealth. Obesity, like hunger, results from a lack of proper access to healthy, nutritious food.
Chamovitz discussed how food insecurity is relevant even to those to who are not hungry, as it affects the worldwide political and economic landscape. “Food insecurity leads to social and political insecurity,” he said. As an example, he stated, “The Arab Spring was not fed by a drive for democracy but by a drive to have food and the increase in bread prices.”
Israel, according to Chamovitz, is uniquely positioned to help feed the world. He said that Israel’s history, dating back to the chalutzim (pioneers), has provided skills to enable Israelis to grow a lot of their own food, while also helping other countries, especially Africa, where Israelis are making change on the ground. He said that Israelis’ experience with arid land, drip irrigation, saline-adaptable crops, heat-tolerant livestock, along with their society’s innovation, and multi-disciplinary chutzpah (personal confidence or audacity), has enabled them to “get their hands dirty” and make strides toward fixing the problem of worldwide hunger.
Chamovitz hopes to expand the reach of the Manna Center at Tel-Aviv University, where the missions of cutting edge research, education, and public outreach are already making a difference. In the future, he would like to see a strong partnership between Israel and the United States to promote food security, especially in the Middle East and Africa, where food shortages can lead to extremist activity.
Chamovitz closed with a quote by Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization: “Hunger is not an issue of charity. It is an issue of justice.”
The next JCRC meeting will be a joint meeting with the Government Affairs Committee and Jewish Women’s Foundation focusing on human trafficking on March 25. The JCRC will also be organizing a Passover Seder focused on hunger and food insecurity on April 2. For more information about these programs and the JCRC, please call 312-357-4770 or email JCRC1@juf.org. For more frequent updates, follow @ChicagoJCRC on Twitter.