FAO in North America

World Food Day Poetry Competition Winners Express Powerful Views on Zero Hunger


WASHINGTON – The FAO North America Office and Poetry X Hunger are proud to announce the winners of the 2019 World Food Day Poetry Competition. Taking center stage as the first-place winner is “The Fruits of Famine” by Henry Crawford of Montgomery County, MD. Receiving the second-place award is “A Child’s Prayer in Today’s World” by Sharon Ingram (Prince George’s County, MD). “Over-Abundance,” by Anne Harding Woodworth from Washington, DC won third prize. The winners will be recognized at a special World Food Day gathering on Capitol on October 22.

Four poems receiving honorable mentions are “Hunger Mind” by Susan Okie (Montgomery County); “Shelter Supper” by Sally Zakariya (Arlington County, VA); “We Grow the Revolution” by Mike Ratcliffe (Howard County, MD); and, “Fundamentals” by Emille Bryant (Fairfax County, VA).

The poems were based on this year’s World Food Day theme, “Our actions are our future. Healthy diets for a #ZeroHunger world.” Celebrated annually, the day aims to raise awareness and action to end global hunger, and ensure that everyone has enough safe and nutritious food to lead healthy and active lives.

This year the Poetry Competition attracted over 60 entries from poets in the District of Columbia and surrounding counties in Virginia and Maryland. Ranging in form from haikus to ballads, entries included rousing calls to action as well as reflective musings.  

The judges’ challenging task was to identify those poems that stood out for their subject, tone, cadence -- and for how they grabbed the readers’ attention. Judges included Ken Brown also known as Analysis of Baltimore, MD who hosts the popular Red Emma's Mother Earth Poetry Vibe reading series; Dr. Heather Thomas, former Poet Laureate of Reading, PA; and, Hiram Larew of Poetry X Hunger.    

In acknowledging his first-place award, Crawford said, "Part of the job of being a poet is to witness wrongs like hunger. The other part is to speak out. I thank the organizers of World Food Day for allowing me to perform both of these important duties."

The judges noted his poem’s striking imagery which creates a living encounter with famine from an entirely fresh perspective. “The poem brings us into the longing that is hunger and jabs at those of us with abundance. Repetition is powerfully, desperately at play here,” they noted in their comments.

“Poetry has the ability to really move people with the play of words. It is a creativity that has to be further tapped into for the greater good of humanity by arousing empathy and inspiring action,” said by Vimlendra Sharan, Director, FAO Liaison Office for North America.

“So many of this year’s entries, including the winning poems, powerfully demonstrate poetry’s power in speaking up against hunger,” says Hiram Larew, founder of Poetry X Hunger.  

The World Food Day Poetry Contest was established through a partnership between the FAO Liaison Office for North America and Poetry X Hunger, an initiative that brings poetry to bear in the fight against hunger (PoetryXHunger.com).


Winning Poems

First Place

The Fruits of Famine

            By Henry Crawford (Montgomery County)

On those nights we traced
the shapes of fruit until the dark
became our eyes.

On those nights we left our fields
unhearing the crack of broken roots,
the silence of dying ground.

On those nights, twilight filled the deserts
of our crossing with the vermillion breath
of watermelon.

On those nights, the stars seeded the skies
above the camp. Jackfruit guards
stood still as celery stalks.

On those nights we dreamed like you
of strawberry days on porcelain plates.

On those nights I made an apple out of sand
and watched it blow away.


Second Place

A Child’s Prayer in Today’s World

(Prayer 1)

by Sharon Ingram (Prince George’s County)

Dear God, Jesus Christ and the (Friendly) Ghost, I like the most!

Please make my Mom heal, she can’t get up to fix breakfast anymore
And sometimes we find her sick or sleep on the floor

Because she’s sick; and our stamps gone – til next month, she say,
I’m scared to cook again; cause, I got burned with hot water when (when)
I tried to fix Oodles of Noodles for me and my brother Malcolm!

God my arm and hand still hurt and at school kids call me “Crispy”!
But my Mom said I can “grow up and be a Plastic Doctor and fix it myself!
God, my Mom not home when we get out of school, I try to get food
Clean up and read to Malcolm – but my stomach hurts and makes loud Noises;

I just cry and go to bed!  I hope she brings us some food or stamps so I can go to the store,
Again, and get some cereal, milk, peanut butter, jelly, applesauce, hotdogs, potato fries,
Donuts and pop tarts -- cause I’m smart!

God heal my Mom so she can take care of us like long, long, time ago!  She fixed breakfast, Walked us to school, home, fixed dinner, and helped with homework.  We had clothes then, Now; no!

God, my Mom says when my Dad gets out of jail things will be fine and all good;
Until then she can’t take no more and every day she got her backwoods --
Smoking, drinking and feeling fine!  God can she feel fine and be sick on the floor,
Cry and Sleep all day?

My Mom used to read the bible to us about God, Jesus Christ and the (Friendly) Ghost,
I like the most; she don’t’ no more though; she say “I ain’t got time for that, get away;
Shut up and sit down”!

God, let my Dad out of jail so we can be fine and heal my Mom to take care of us before the School’s people take us away my Mom say!

Thank you God!  Can you send us some food from da sky or on High; so Malcolm

Can get strong? 

Hurry, PLEASE, please; Please, Amen!    


Third Place 


            by Anne Harding Woodworth (Washington, DC)

            remembering the woman who said, “I’ve been on a few diets
            because I can’t get enough to eat on just one.”

They can’t stop themselves.
Daily they take twice as much
as what will do them. And they go global—
India, Italy, China, Greece, Uganda, France,
and myriad other cuisines.
(Burmese villagers asked them,
“What do you eat that’s made you so big?”)
It was never rice and a few leaves.
No, not for them. They don’t remember
subsistence. They need more than
twice as much, thrice maybe,
and they talk of food as if it’s
a designer dress, a private jet. Food
is a swimming pool. Food is a country club,
a diamond ring, sparkly humor
laughter at all the wrong things.
Food is arranged, photographed,
the image shared with the famished world.
They can’t stop themselves.