So you’re participating in our Courage of One Challenge with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I and you want to learn more about poverty in the United States?
Poverty is the most pressing problem facing the world. It either magnifies the devastation of other global issues like HIV or is the direct cause of death from preventable diseases. Diarrhea and pneumonia take the lives of 2 million children each year. The 1.2 billion people living on less than $1.25/day confront a fight for survival on a daily basis. Their tragedy has been well documented. Increasingly, people are also recognizing the poor’s inalienable ability to be their own agent of change with the rise of microfinance and other social ventures that address the needs of the poor.
Still, we continue to fight poverty even in the wealthiest countries of the world, like the United States. The very poor in these countries experience poverty differently than those living on the margin of extreme poverty. Many advocates in the economically developed world focus on closing the income gap between the rich and poor. There is a distinct difference between relative and absolute poverty.
Regardless of the situation, when someone is void of opportunity or reasonable choices, poverty has a direct and significant impact on the individual’s life. In wealthy countries, poor communities are disproportionately affected by crime and drug abuse. This form of relative poverty doesn’t see people dying of hunger but rather of violence.
For some, the thought is to bring income equality to the people and fairness will ensue. But will it?
The poorest in the wealthiest country can read, have shelter, often amenities such as mobile phones and TVs. This reality is very different from the lives of the World’s poorest that are born into a system void of basic sanitation, schools, or a system where communities can flourish. A focus on income distribution can lose sight of the importance of raising absolute levels of income so basic human needs can be met first and opportunities created.
Despite this bleak picture often painted by the media, the reality is that the world is becoming wealthier and healthier. Today, the absolute levels of poverty have declined precipitously over the last two centuries. The rule of law, property rights, and civil liberties have been paramount to the explosion of prosperity. Hans Rosling makes a compelling case through statistics that the world is dramatically improving in this video.
Whole Planet Foundation was created based on the principal that everyone deserves access to opportunity. We focus our efforts primarily on supporting the poorest entrepreneurs around the world in communities where Whole Foods Market sources products. As the foundation has grown, so has the desire from our stakeholders for us to support projects in their local communities.
Whole Planet Foundation has committed $4 million to poverty alleviation in the United States, and is supporting more than 3,400 people across 10 U.S. cities with the chance for a better life through entrepreneurship.
Poverty creates stress and needs to be addressed regardless of the form. By creating a system that promotes opportunities at all levels of society, may we all live healthy and prosperous lives.