For most Americans, food scarcity is when we wait till the last minute and the exact brand of low-fat, gluten-free, heart healthy, fair trade, organic, local, hand-crafted marshmallow is sold out, forcing us to ‘make do’ with an inferior sweet potato casserole topping. Though the grocery stores may temporarily run low on the must-have holiday ingredients, there’s never a concern about the availability of food itself. We often take this vital element of Thanksgiving for granted because we are blessed with an abundance of food in our country.
Natural resources, combined with technology and innovation, enable us to produce more food, more efficiently than the rest of the world. We produce enough food to meet our own domestic needs, as well as enough to share with other countries, making the United States the largest exporter of food in the world. While hunger exists, ours is a challenge of distribution rather than outright scarcity. Fruits and vegetables, dairy, grains and proteins all are in ample supply here in America.
In many other parts of the world, however, individuals could benefit greatly from the caloric value of the second slice of pie our waistlines could have afforded to live without. More than two billion people in the world get by on less than $2 per day, and more than 800 million people in the world suffer from persistent hunger. Many societies, where food scarcity is the norm, are unable to fulfill people’s most basic need for food, and strife and instability often follow.
One of the greatest and most personal blessings the early settlers paused to give thanks for was food—the simple, but vital, acknowledgement that they had not starved like so many of their friends and family, and the bright hope that, with the help of the Native Americans, they could gather, grow, and store enough to survive another winter. As we gather with our loved ones this Thanksgiving, let us give thanks for the peace and prosperity which descend from our abundance. Let us pray for the men and women at home and abroad who keep us safe. And may we all be grateful for the farmers and ranchers who provide us with the meals we take for granted nearly every other day of the year.
Adam Putnam is Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture.