Celebrity Chef Andrew Zimmern on How to Find the Will to Solve Hunger

World Food Program Ambassador Andrew Zimmern speaks at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards in Chicago, June 5, 2023. Credit – Jeff Schear—Getty Images for the James Beard Foundation

OhOn the eve of the United Nations General Assembly, as 50 guests gathered for the latest TIME100 Talk to wine and dine at Aretsky’s Patroon in New York, the theme of the evening was hunger.

It’s an issue that affects more than 33 million people in the United States and as many as 1 in 10 people worldwide — and it’s personal to James Beard Award-winning chef and TV host and speaker Andrew Zimmern guest at Embracing Progress: The Challenges and Impact of Disruption, presented by TIME in partnership with Philip Morris International.

Zimmern, who says his past struggles with addiction and alcoholism led him to eat Thanksgiving meals provided by the Salvation Army, is now using his celebrity status to advocate for the fight against hunger – a problem which, according to him, remains unresolved due to lack of will rather than lack of skill.

“We have the food,” Zimmern emphasizes, as well as the distribution systems. It is estimated that fighting hunger in the United States will cost between $23 billion and $40 billion.

“The fact that we can do this and yet some people choose not to prioritize this is embarrassing,” he said. “I used the word genocidal. And I was criticized for that. But when you look at the dictionary definition, if you are actually capable of doing it, but you make the choice not to, I think at some point you have to start accepting the fact that hunger “It’s not something that anyone should have to face in this country in 2023, and frankly in any country in 2023.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when impacts on supply chains saw food prices skyrocket and millions become unemployed, Congress increased funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance programs , or SNAP, and other relief programs, which helped the United States achieve its lowest share of households in 2021. with registered food insecure children. But that funding was temporary and ended, affecting some 41 million Americans.

Although the onus is on Congress to act, Zimmern told his guests Monday night that everyone can play a role. He encouraged people to see hunger firsthand by volunteering at shelters and speaking out about it to keep the problem at the forefront as a matter of “moral urgency.”

“It makes more people aware of what’s really going on,” Zimmern said. “If we use the word hunger all the time, it would increase the shame of not solving the problem – or the criminality of not solving it. »

And these kinds of conversations can happen simply over a shared meal, he added.

“I have never sat down to have a meal with someone and got up understanding them less.”

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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