Monday, May 4, 2009

Food for thought

Twelve cases of Isosource 1.5 Cal were stacked by my front door when I came home from work on Friday night.

Isosource is the vanilla-flavored liquid formula that I dump down my G-tube because my swollen tongue doesn't allow me to get food down my throat. I go through eight or nine cans of Isosource each day –that's between 3,000 and 3,375 calories– and 12 cases are enough for a month of tube feedings.

The last time that I got a shipment of Isosource –around the time that my cancer treatments were wrapping up– I told a friend that maybe I wouldn't need to re-order. With luck, I told him, my tongue would return to normal over the next few weeks and I would be able to start eating through my mouth again.

Well, several weeks have passed and I'm still waiting for my tongue to shrink enough to allow me to eat through the mouth and talk.

I carried the cases of Isosource into my apartment and stacked them in the kitchen. As the pile of Isosource got higher, my spirits sank lower. I really want to see the light at the end of the tunnel in this cancer ordeal, but after all these weeks of treatment and recovery, that tunnel is only getting longer.

An email sent over the weekend by a friend who works overseas was enough to get me to quit my belly-achin'.

My friend works for the World Food Programme, a United Nations agency that is the world's largest humanitarian organization. Last Monday, WFP held an event in Los Angeles, and my friend wanted to let me know how it turned out.

He sent a link to the World Food Programme's website and I spent time on Sunday reading about the group's work to fight hunger and raise awareness. I came upon some startling facts. Here are just a few:

  • Twenty-five thousand adults and children die every day from hunger and related causes.

  • Nine-hundred and sixty-three million people do not have enough to eat. That's a sum that exceeds than the populations of United States, Canada and the European Union.

  • The number of undernourished people in the world rose by 75 million in 2007 and 40 million in 2008. Higher food prices are largely the reason for the increase.

  • In developing countries alone, 907 million people are hungry.

  • Every six seconds a child dies because of hunger and related causes.

  • In a 1970 UN Resolution, most industrialized nations committed themselves to tackling global poverty by spending 0.7 percent of their national incomes on international aid by 1975. Nearly 40 years later, only Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Denmark regularly meet this target.

Then I left the World Food Programme's website and started to look at statistics on hunger that were closer to home.

  • According to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, 214,000 people in Los Angeles County suffer from hunger, and 561,000 people are at risk for hunger.

  • The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank reports that one in eight Los Angeles County residents are at risk for hunger.

  • The California Food Policy Advocates reports that over 5 million people in California are hungry or live in fear of hunger.

Now I'm looking at that stack of cases of Isosource in my kitchen in a different light.

I get all of the food that I need delivered to my doorstep by my HMO. Sure, the food enters my stomach by a different route than it used to, but it gets there just as well. I don't know how my cancer odyssey is going to play out, but I do know this: I'm not going to go hungry.

I had a nourishing breakfast this morning and I hope you did, too. Not enough people in the world can say the same.

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