Why are so many people hungry?

A bed of kale in a garden.
The Common Table Farm sponsored by Flemingdon Park Ministry.
 on September 28, 2022
Michael Hudson

Abundance is central to the gospel promise. God wants everyone to “have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). The prophet Isaiah exhorts us to respond to God’s abundance with acts of justice and compassion, including sharing our food with all who hunger and dismantling systems that produce hunger in the first place (58:7). Our own access to wholeness and abundance is explicitly tied to seeking the wholeness of others. Other Bible stories speak of how God’s people responded to famine, including Joseph, whose careful distribution of food kept several nations alive during a five-year famine (Genesis 41:46-57).

Abundance is a noble goal. And yet it’s a world away from the life so many lead.

I’ve often been to Toronto’s Rogers Centre (formerly the SkyDome) when it’s been full, a vast throng of 45,000 people. I use that image when grappling with the number of hungry people in Canada: 20 Rogers Centres full. That’s over 840,000 people, many of them children and youth, and the number is growing due to runaway inflation. In Ontario, half a million people relied on food bank handouts to alleviate hunger between 2020 and 2021. Around the world, climate change and conflicts such as the Russia-Ukraine war are leading to more hunger, with at least 140 million people in a dire food crisis.

In our wealthy society, why are so many people going hungry, including members of our own parishes? What can we do about it?

Many parishes in our diocese help hungry people through meal programs, food banks and similar efforts. Particularly encouraging are those efforts that build community and enable low-income people to provide their own food. The Common Table, sponsored by Flemingdon Park Ministry, is a garden in Toronto’s Flemingdon Park neighbourhood through which residents, many of them new Canadians, grow food for themselves, local seniors and families on land gifted by Our Saviour, an Anglican church. Another dynamic initiative is the Church of the Resurrection’s  “Garden at the Rez,” through which dozens of gardeners and volunteers grow food on land near this east Toronto parish. Church members work alongside parish neighbours. The garden has become a neighbourhood hub, with work bees, jam-making, barbecues and picnics. Beyond our diocese, PWRDF makes a huge difference in alleviating hunger through emergency relief programs and support for farmers around the world.

These are wonderful efforts making a real difference for people struggling to put food on the table.  What more can we do to live that famous message from Matthew 25, where Jesus says: “I was hungry and you gave me food?”

We can tackle the problem at its root by ensuring that everyone is able to buy the food they need, joining forces with the growing number of Canadians urging our federal government to provide an adequate basic income for all (also called a guaranteed livable income). Major faith groups, including the Anglican Church of Canada, have endorsed this goal. Support for a basic income is growing, but to achieve it more people need to actively voice their support, especially to our political leaders.

In their 2020 letter to Prime Minister Trudeau calling for a basic income, 41 Anglican and Lutheran bishops noted the ethical implications involved: “We recommend GBI (guaranteed basic income), not just as an astute financial policy, but also because it marks our identity as a country who cares for one another… GBI would be a new social contract, defining a new relationship amongst Canadians, through the mediating role of our government: we would be articulating a relationship where we would know that some of our public spending would provide income for others. With GBI, we state clearly and definitively that no one will be failed by the system so catastrophically that they cannot feed and house themselves and their families; that no one is left so alone and so far behind that they cannot find a path out of precarity.”

The diocese’s Social Justice and Advocacy Committee has endorsed this campaign. Resources to help Anglicans learn more and advocate for basic income are available at

Hunger may look different today than it did in Jesus’ day. Yet the question – and and the challenge to us as Christians – remains the same: Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food? We can respond as individuals, as faith communities, and through our governments.


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