The faces of hunger are diverse: a nursing mother in Ghana; smiling children in Tajikistan standing in line for their next meal; an elderly man saluting the American flag in West Virginia, the outline of his ribs telling his story.
Howard G. Buffett brought those faces to Omaha on Friday to promote “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World,” the book he wrote with son Howard W. Buffett about their efforts to end global starvation.
Dozens of the senior Buffett's photographs from his travels to 130 countries lined the walls at the Mangelsen Images of Nature gallery in the Old Market. Buffett and his son shared stories about the pictures with those who attended the book-signing event.
Buffett said his camera enables him to tell the story of hunger through images and to help people in the U.S. relate to those in countries most will never visit.
He pointed to a photo of a little girl in unstable Afghanistan, holding bottles of water.
“The only difference between that girl and one of my daughters is where she was born,” he said.
Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, said he traveled partly to figure out how to spend money his father gave him to establish a philanthropic foundation. A farmer, he soon realized he needed to focus on world hunger.
When you look at poverty, he said, you realize there are a hundred different ways to address it, so you have to focus.
“I understand agriculture, I'm involved and engaged,” he said. “It's much easier for us to do something we understand.”
The United Nations estimates that there are 870 million undernourished people in the world. Buffett, who lives in Decatur, Ill., said about 50 million of them are in America.
And, he said, you don't have to be a philanthropist to help. Through his travels, he has learned that everyone can do something.
In Omaha, that might mean volunteering to deliver Meals on Wheels to the elderly, contributing to the food bank or working at a soup kitchen, he said.
“Time is just as important as money.”
For his part, Buffett will continue to fund hunger aid and agriculture programs through his foundation, and soon will visit the three African countries he has hasn't yet been to: the Republic of Guinea, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania.
The father-son duo don't plan to write another book. This one took two years to write, and they consider it their primary tool for spreading the word about their mission.
“I want to get back into the field,” the senior Buffett said.