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Center Opens in NYC to Fight Global Hunger

United States, October 16, 2008

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Deepti Hajela

Newsday
October, 2008

Mercy Corps hopes visitors to the Action Center to End World Hunger will come away not only knowing more, but doing more.

NEW YORK -- Not just education, but inspiration.

The people behind a new institution opening in lower Manhattan hope visitors to the Action Center to End World Hunger will come away not only knowing more, but doing more.

The center, a project of international aid organization Mercy Corps, opens today -- World Food Day -- across the street from the Irish Hunger Memorial.

The multimedia, interactive facility, designed by Edwin Schlossberg, tries to connect people to the hunger relief work being done around the world and offers a variety of ways to get involved. It features a video narrated by "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live" star Tina Fey.

"This is a place to turn people on to becoming a part of this," Schlossberg said. "What we're about is OK, so what are you going to be doing for hunger, now?"

George Devendorf of Mercy Corps said one goal is to "get someone who hasn't previously taken an action to take one." That, he says, could "be a catalyst in their own life."

Devendorf said the idea started at the Battery Park City Authority, which was looking for a complement to the hunger memorial in that neighborhood. The memorial commemorates the famine that led to millions starving and brought hundreds of thousands of Irish to New York.

Mercy Corps, based in Portland, Ore., sees the center as a way of helping Americans change the way they see the world and getting them more connected to global issues, Devendorf said.

"We're not going to be successful in achieving the kind of lasting change we want unless we open up a second front in that struggle, and that second front is here at home," he said. "It's influencing Americans and building a constituency of citizens who understand what some of these root causes are that animate hunger and poverty and have a clear understanding of some of the steps they can take."

It's a message that he thinks Americans are more receptive to hearing, given rising food prices and the financial crisis.

The center opens with a briefing room.

"Each night, almost one billion people around the world go to bed hungry," Fey says in the video shown there. "Yet hunger itself is a symptom of wide problems faced by communities in every country -- problems being greatly exacerbated by the current food crisis both in the U.S. and around the world.

"The Action Center will illuminate how hunger is not the problem, but the symptom of many root causes, such as poor agricultural practices, human rights abuses, and the impacts of climate change. By identifying and highlighting these underlying causes, the Action Center will seek to generate the public resolve necessary to create lasting change."

Four "training towers" focus on issues related to hunger like land use or governance, and show how those issues are dealt with in a specific country. Other screens show Mercy Corps workers around the world, giving accounts of their work.

An action center allows visitors to see what they can do, depending on what amount of time they want to give -- from one minute to one day to one lifetime. Actions can range from sending letters to elected officials to volunteering.

The center is hosting a number of events to mark the opening, including a panel discussion and a comedy show.

Editor's Note: This article originated from The Associated Press and ran in Newsday and other pulications