Some 45,000 people joined the Big IF anti-hunger rally from 2pm-5pm in London's Hyde Park today (Saturday 8 June). Its aim is to press for global action, and it starts ten days of campaigning action targeted at the G8 and other world leaders.
The 'Enough Food For Everyone IF' coalition organisers have announced themselves "delighted" at the turnout, initial political response and media coverage.
It had been anticipated that around 20,000 people would travel to London. In the event, more than twice that number did.
There has also been a rally in Belfast, and Big IF actions have been developing across the country.
Two million petals were arranged in the shape of the campaign petition in London, to symbolise children dying of hunger every year.
Meanwhile, in a small but helpful boost to the campaign, the the UK has committed an additional £375 million of core funding to help feed the world's poorest children, as part of a £2.7 billion global agreement.
Participants at the G8 summit, who signed a Global Nutrition for Growth deal this week, committed their countries and organisations to:
* Improving the nutrition of 500 million pregnant women and young children.
* Reducing by an additional 20 million the number of children under five who are stunted.
* Saving the lives of at least 1.7 million children by preventing stunting, increasing breastfeeding and better treatment of severe and acute malnutrition.
Prime Minister David Cameron said ahead of the rally that Britain must "lead from the front" and help beat world hunger.
But development campaigners say that he needs to match his ready rhetoric with concrete action not just on aid, but on land, food production, inequality, trade and tax avoidance.
They point out that today's G8 pledge is still "a drop in the ocean" and that past commitments have not always been kept.
Everyone at the Big IF London event helped to create the huge visual petition to demonstrate the scale of public support for the IF campaign.
The petition was made up of 250,000 spinning flowers, with a total of two million petals representing the two million children who die because of hunger each year – lives that can be saved if world leaders take action at the G8.
International entrepreneur Bill Gates, who was speaking at the event, commented: “The UK is demonstrating its leadership by putting agriculture and nutrition at the top of the political agenda. I am delighted to offer my support to the IF campaign and hope that the people of the UK will rise to the occasion.”
UNICEF Ambassador and football legend David Beckham said: “There is enough food in the world for everyone, but not everyone has enough food. Every 15 seconds, a child dies of malnutrition. As a UNICEF Ambassador, I have seen how simple, low-cost solutions stop children dying of hunger and malnutrition. In the next few weeks, G8 leaders could decide the fate of millions of children around the world. I want them to stop the scandal of hunger.”
Event compere, musician Myleene Klass, added: “I know that we can put an end to world hunger and that the Big IF London is going to kick start that.”
Comedian Eddie Izzard declared: “Time is running out for the millions of children who die because of hunger every year. David Cameron and other G8 leaders are meeting to decide the fate of millions. When people made enough noise, politicians were forced to end apartheid. Politicians were also forced to abolish slavery and to give women the vote. Now is the time for politicians to end hunger.”
Meanwhile, former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams commented: “Given the amount of public attention that there is on the question of availability of food in our world today, you might think this is a problem we’d solved but that’s why this is such a timely campaign. The production and availability of food, the issue of hunger, brings together so many different areas of concern in our world."
'Enough Food For Everyone IF' is a joint coalition of over 200 UK organisations campaigning for action to eliminate the causes of hunger.
Its key message is: "There is enough food for everyone, yet one in eight people do not have enough food. This year, world leaders must tackle hunger and save millions of lives."
Dozens of faith and church related groups are backing the initiative.
Ekklesia supports the campaign, but argues with War on Want, WDM, the TUC and others that further action is needed, including action to secure 'food sovereignty' for the poorest.
* Ekklesia briefing, 'Hunger can be ended: but how and by whom?' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17926
* The Big IF: http://enoughfoodif