Things That Make Me Go Hmmm... Is Hunger Still a Factor After Mockingjay?

From Time.com's photo essay, "What the World Eats, Part 1", a German family spends $500 per week on food.
 One of the first lessons I wrote for The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was a comparison between what the district citizens ate to the diets of the Capitol citizens in Panem. It's called "What They Ate" and can be found {HERE} for a free download.

When I came across a photo essay called "What the World Eats" posted on Time.com with images from the 2007 book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio, it helped me further make the connection between our world and Katniss's world in Panem. Yes, I know that we live in a world of excess while there are people starving to death every day. But seeing the images of the families from around the world with their week's worth of groceries sends the message loud and clear. It shows the viewer just how excessive some families are and what little we could actually survive on. 

Additionally, the viewer can see how many of the foods have added chemicals for preservation. And on the flip side, how much is grown and harvested by the family or a local farmer?

The viewer also sees the amount of consumer waste each family will produce by eating the prepackaged foods. How much will have to be thrown away? How much of the waste can be recycled? How much is actually organic and can be used as compost?

But probably the most lasting impression I see in the images is this: the smiles and happiness on the faces of those with so little and the frowns on the faces of those with so much. Judging by their surroundings, you would think those with so little would be miserable. But they aren't. Or, they don't look as if they are. What does this tell us about our world? 

Which, of course, leads me back to Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. (Spoiler alert!) After the war, what happens to the citizens of Panem? We know that Plutarch's plan was to form a republic where the citizens can elect representatives (p. 83-84, Mockingjay) and that Paylor was elected shortly after Katniss killed President Coin (p. 378). But what we don't know is what kind of economic system is in place at the end of the trilogy. Is it a capitalist or socialist society? Are people left to fend for themselves, or is aid provided by the government? 
A family from Ecuador who spends just $31.55 each week on food.

What happened to the Capitol citizens? As Plutarch had explained in Mockingjay, many citizens were heavily in debt and signed on to be Peacekeepers to have their debts erased (p. 83). Do they now take on jobs in construction, helping rebuild their city? Will someone like Tigris find work? Will people still purchase the outlandish furs and other fashion statements they once wore in the Capitol? Or will old habits return, and the Capitol citizens go back to their lives of excessive food, parties, and consumer waste? 

What I wonder the most, though, is whether the citizens will realize what it is like to be truly hungry, and if that will be enough to make a real change in their world? But I look at our world and see how easily we forget our past. And our present. How long does it take people to block out the images of the starving children we see on TV and go back to our three-course meals? Probably as long as it took Haymitch to find the bottles of liquor on the hovercraft ride home (p. 380).

As we enter the holiday season, think about those who are less fortunate and don't change the channel. Instead, do something. If you don't know how to help, why not find out if there are food drives in your community that you can donate to; if not, start a food drive at your school for a local food pantry; or volunteer at the food pantry or a homeless shelter. When you help others and see first-hand how others suffer, it is hard to ignore. 

Classroom Connection: 
1. When you are teaching The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, or Mockingjay, take a class period to talk to students about world hunger, and hunger in your own community. Use the "What They Ate" handout as a starting point.

2. Show the "What the World Eats" slideshow from Time.com and discuss the images. Ask students what is most surprising or shocking about each family. Ask them what their family image would look like. They can also find out how much their family spends each week for consumables, as well as how much waste they produce.

3. If your class participates in a class Games competition, have students bring in non-perishables to sponsor a tribute. The tribute with the most food items wins the Games. Then have the class deliver the food to a pantry or shelter.

In Chad, this family eats for just $1.23 per week.

All images are from Time.com.

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