For more than 30 years, former U.S. Rep. Tony Hall has been a leading advocate against worldwide hunger and he says we are winning the fight.

Hall, who represented the Dayton area in Congress for 23 years, was ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in the George W. Bush administration and was a three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

He has been executive director and now director emeritus of the Alliance to End Hunger in Washington, D.C., for a number of years.

He’s also drawing awareness to the issue in Dayton. Two years ago, after research identified Dayton as one of the hungriest cities in the nation because of the incidence of households dealing with food hardship, he launched the Hall Hunger Initiative (with the United Way of Greater Dayton and the Jack W. and Sally D. Eichelberger Foundation) to collaborate on ways to reduce food insecurity and increase food access to those in need.

How did you come to focus on the hunger issue?

It probably started when I was in the Peace Corps in the late 1960s when I lived among poor people in Thailand. Later, when I was a member of Congress, I began to travel. In Ethiopia I saw 25 children fleeing civil war die one morning from hunger. I never got over that.

What’s the mission of the Alliance to End Hunger?

We represent a lot of different groups, faith-based groups, universities and businesses. Our goal is to end hunger by the year 2030. We bring these groups together to do advocacy, work on programs and get legislation in Congress to address the issues of domestic and international hunger.

Are we making progress toward ending hunger?

Yes. You can measure it different ways but we’ve cut hunger and poverty about in half. Thirty years ago in speeches we were saying 42,000 people die each day from hunger across the globe. Today, we say about 21,000 people die each day from hunger. It’s still a big number, but it has come down drastically.

What impact is the Hall Hunger Initiative having?

One of the things we’re working on with others is the Gem City Market, a community owned full-service grocery in West Dayton where there is none. It’s coming along and will happen. It’s a real hardship for senior citizens and mothers with children to not have easy access to a grocery.

Hunger is such a massive issue. What is one thing everyone can do?

When I visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta once she took me to a densely populated area where people were living and sleeping on the streets. I asked her: Where do you start? She told me: Do the thing that’s in front of you.

What she was saying was if everybody helped their neighbor wherever they are that would go a long way to solving the problem and government wouldn’t need to do as much. I thought that was really good advice.

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