In 2009, 50.2 million Americans lived in "food insecure" households. In other words- during any given time period they were out of money, food, and forced to miss meals or seek assistance for food. That's 33 million adults and 17.2 million children. Hunger is an epidemic that affects children, adults, and seniors in America every day. National Hunger Awareness Month is in June, and was created to help raise awareness of hunger in America. Feeding American families has become increasingly more difficult, demand has increased while there is less food surplus and fewer charitable dollars available. Livestock production for human nutrition is wasteful and inefficient when compared to plant and vegetable production for the same. The oft cited piece, Lifestock Production, by David Pimentel, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, explains:
”If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million. More than half the U.S. grain and nearly 40 percent of world grain is being fed to livestock rather than being consumed directly by humans. Although grain production is increasing in total, the per capita supply has been decreasing for more than a decade. Clearly, there is reason for concern in the future.”
However, it is not just livestock production causing undue harm. Monoculture of plant crops is environmentally destructive and harmful to the health of all beings, as well. No diversity, high pesticide use, and genetically modified seeds are hallmarks of today's soy, corn, and wheat crops, among others. In addition, biofuels from corn and other crops are inefficient and not sustainable. Combine the inefficiencies of livestock production and monoculture with the environmental destruction caused by both, and add it to unfair, extreme governmental subsidies and you've got high food prices which disproportionally affect the majority Americans. Too, too many people go hungry or are at least nutritionally deficient. Child hunger can hinder the ability to learn, thus making these children more likely to suffer from poverty as an adult. How can hemp help us to reduce hunger? Besides having an abundance of ecological advantages, hemp is also (affordable) one of the single most nutritious food items on the planet. From Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada:
- Whole hemp seed is composed of approximately 45 percent oil, 35 percent protein and 10 percent carbohydrates and fiber.
- Hemp seed and its by-products can be used to supplement diets poor in EFAs in order to maintain health. One by-product, hemp seed oil, contains 30% of its weight in EFA-rich oil, delivering an ideal combination of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids for long term use. Hemp seed oil may have potential health benefits for diabetes, cancer, lupus, asthma rheumatoid arthritis, depression and hypertension. Hemp is one of only two plants that contain both EFAs as well as gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA has been found to have many properties ranging from anti-inflammatory to anti-depression. It can lower cholesterol and help to correct dyslexia, dyspraxia, and hyperactivity (ADHD). Approximately one-third of the population lacks the enzyme to metabolize GLA from omega 6 and must take GLA from an outside source to maintain good health, and hemp is an excellent way for them to do so.
- Hemp's agronomic and environment attributes are remarkable: it can be grown without fungicides, herbicides and pesticides, it absorbs carbon dioxide five times more efficiently than the same acreage of forest and it matures in three to four months.
There are a plethora of amazing hemp foods for humans and non-humans alike. Pressed seed cake, or hemp meal (the remnants after the oil has been pressed out), can also be used as feed for animals. Hemp seeds are also the preferred seed among birds. Adding this super-food to your diet is easy. Here are a few ways:
Hempseeds. These can be eaten raw, added to salads, soups, smoothies, cereals, or a million other recipes.
Hemp oils. Most commonly used as a supplement, hemp oil has been found to be superior to olive, flaxseed, and fish oils.
Hemp Protein. High protein and fat-free, hemp protein powders make a quick meal or recovery drink after a grueling workout.
Hemp Nuts. Similar to soynuts, these crunchy snacks are perfect on their own but can also be added to granola, trail mix, cereals, salads, or even soups.
Hemp Milk. Not all non-dairy milks are equal. No other non-dairy milk gives you the nutritional profile that hemp can. Smooth and creamy, hemp milk can be substituted anytime dairy milk is called for or drank right from the carton.
We can easily see the nutritional, environmental, and economic value of producing hemp as food. When compared to producing livestock to meet this country's nutritional needs and improving quality of life for all, hemp proves itself to be the compassionate and nutritious solution. To help end hunger in America (and around the globe), legalizing industrial hemp production in the United States would be a great step in the right direction for feeding 50.2 million hungry American families.