Does London Really Care About Global Hunger?

To begin with a confession, and (if I may say) with one that is incredibly unlike me: I was wrong.

I had naively started to buy into the exaggerated stereotype that Londoners had become too busy, trendy and self-absorbed to care about the lives of those further afield. I had prematurely assumed that everyone was just far too busy moaning about the Northern Line and tweeting about how much they love Breaking Bad to be actively addressing the global food crisis.

But my recent stint at Action Against Hunger has afforded me a window of insight into the part that London is actually playing in the wider fight against hunger, and it has been an incredibly pleasant surprise.

Being one of the world’s most influential financial and cultural capitals brings with it, in my opinion, a certain sense of responsibility to give something back and to lead on humanitarian assistance, and last weekend I was delighted to see our city doing its bit.

On Sunday, crowds gathered at St Pancras International as London was host to a unique concert that sought to inspire a generation to lift their voices and finally put an end to child hunger.

With the free concert being live-streamed around the world, the No Hunger Orchestra were joined by soul artist Bo Saris and members of the London2012 choir, the Urban Voices Collective, as London stood alongside Paris and Madrid, also holding live and simultaneous concerts, to sing out against malnutrition.

With representatives of the European Commission in attendance, there was a tangible sense of realisation amongst the hundreds of attendees and passers-by that we now have a unique opportunity to see important progress on hunger within our lifetime.

As I discovered, for all of the criticism that its apparently self-regarding residents take, London is currently demonstrating that it has a very strong appetite for giving something of itself; a desire to empathise with those less fortunate and, more importantly, to start doing something about it.

I was similarly thrilled to discover what 200 of London’s restaurants have been up to. Many of the capital’s eateries, including Grain Store, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley and the Hawksmoor and Polpo groups, have united to support the Love Food Give Food campaign, offering diners the opportunity to join the fight against hunger by adding an optional £1 donation to their bill throughout September and October.

Again, you could be forgiven for thinking that Oblix, Hutong and Aqua Shard, three of London’s newest gastronomic hotspots, would be far too preoccupied worrying about who was next going to scale their building to think about beating malnutrition on a global scale.

The best bit is that this is neither a new phenomenon nor a flash-in-the-pan campaign. Last year, restaurants in London raised over £150,000 in just 60 days for Action Against Hunger; an incredible feat predicated on the extraordinary generosity of diners and restaurant owners alike.

Indeed, generosity of this magnitude has meant that organisations such as Action Against Hunger are now closer than ever to being able to provide life-saving treatment to every undernourished child in world. Collectively, these organisations were able to treat 2.6million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition around the world in 2012, 700,000 more than the previous year (according to UNICEF’s latest report).

But there is still a long way to go. If we are to get anywhere near the target of eradicating hunger, London has a huge part to play. Further progress in the effectiveness of treatment programmes can only be achieved through the continued generosity of individual, corporate and institutional donors and an ever-heightening awareness of the current problem.

This weekend I was proved wrong. To my surprise, certainly in the context of global hunger, London is becoming the capital of social and humanitarian responsibility that I always thought it should be.

Image courtesy of Will Vickers

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