When we talk about Ethics and Childhood Hunger we need to go all the way back to the first conversations about the so called “Have’s and Have Not’s.” The first real conversation about the ethical considerations regarding the subject of hunger, and famine began with Peter Singer’s (1972) paper “Famine, Affluence and Morality.” This paper ‘Famine, Affluence and Morality’ launched an important round of reflection on the developed world’s moral responsibility to undertake development assistance.
Denis Goulet’s book The Cruel Choice has sparked the conversation about hunger and ethics. This book, published some 40 years ago and marks the beginning of development ethics. The importance of Goulet’s work is the role it played in bringing philosophy into the theory and practice of development (Thompson, 2014).
There are two main ethical arguments for and against hunger:
- Give aid and assistance to those in need despite the financial burden (Barrett and Maxwell 2005)
- The Ecology debate lower the birth rate or increase the death rate via starvation, infection, etc. (Hardin 1968, 1974,1976).
Seems really BLACK and WHITE don’t you think?
When we talk about ethics, it’s always important to consider the ethical principals of beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice, and respect for autonomy, and fidelity.
Definitions (School of Education, Syracuse University 2018)
- Respecting autonomy: the individual has the right to act as a free agent. That is, human beings are free to decide how they live their lives as long as their decisions do not negatively impact the lives of others. Human beings also have the right to exercise freedom of thought or choice.
- Doing no harm (Nonmaleficence): Our interactions with people (within the helping professions or otherwise) should not harm others. We should not engage in any activities that run the risk of harming others.
- Benefiting others (Beneficence): Our actions should actively promote the health and well-being of others.
- Being just (Justice): In the broadest sense of the word, this means being fair. This is especially the case when the rights of one individual or group are balanced against another. Being just, however, assumes three standards. They are impartiality, equality, and reciprocity (based on the golden rule: treat others as you wish to be treated).
- Being faithful (Fidelity): Being faithful involves loyalty, truthfulness, promise keeping, and respect. This principle is related to the treatment of autonomous people. Failure to remain faithful in dealing with others denies individuals the full opportunity to exercise free choice in a relationship, therefore limiting their autonomy.
Personally after considering the United States childhood hunger statistics and knowing from the health perspective the implications for health outcomes of children who grow up hungry, I have come to think that we MUST be on the Pro Aid and assistance to end childhood hunger. I think the other key factor to this issue is that it MUST be sustainable. Arizona needs to implement sustainable solutions to help feed the many hungry children and their families in Maricopa County.
Barrett, Christopher B., and Daniel G. Maxwell. 2005. Food Aid After Fifty Years: Recasting its Role. Abingdon, OX: Routledge.
Chatterjee, R. (2017, March 23). Kids who suffer hunger in first years lag behind their peers in school. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/03/23/520997010/kids-who-suffer-hunger-in-first-years-lag-behind-their-peers-in-school
Hardin, Garrett. 1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Science 162: 1243–1248. doi: 10.1126/science.162.3859.1243
Hardin, Garrett. 1974. Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor. Psychology Today Magazine, September 8, 38–43, 123–126.
Hardin, Garrett. 1976a. “Carrying Capacity as an Ethical Concept.” Soundings 58: 120–137.
Hardin, Garrett. 1976b. The Limits of Altruism: An Ecologist’s View of Survival. Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press.
Singer, Peter. 1972. “Famine, Affluence and Morality.” Philosophy and Public Affairs1: 229–243.
Syracuse University. (2018, October 23). Common ethical issues. Retrieved from https://soe.syr.edu/departments/academic/counseling-human-services/modules/ethical/
Thompson, P. B. (2015). From world hunger to food sovereignty: food ethics and human development. Journal of Global Ethics, 11(3), 336-350. Retrieved from https://doi-org.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/10.1080/17449626.2015.1100651