Heavy and Hungry

I’m back at school now for the spring semester, and getting back into the swing of things. The great thing about dining halls is that I can eat unlimited amounts of veggies. Today there was curried cauliflower AND grilled broccoli. Anyway, over break I read a very important book called Stuffed and Starved by a very smart man named Raj Patel.

Essentially, it’s about some of the major deep-rooted problems in the international food system that simultaneously cause hunger and obesity. I’m going to throw you some highlights:

  • The food system is like an hourglass: there are billions of producers at one end, and consumers at the other end, with many fewer processors, distributors, and retailers in between. The power mainly lies in the hands of the few, to the detriment of the many.
  • The “few” in power make life a living hell for thousands of food producers (aka farmers) in the Global South (aka the developing world) who ironically can’t feed themselves or their families with their pathetic earnings from growing food. The suicide rate for farmers is significantly higher than for other professions, especially in the Global South.
  • The World Trade Organization sets the prices of grain in different countries and allows wealthy countries of the Global North like the U.S. to subsidize their grain, so they can sell it much more competitively than those in the Global South, which really hurts farmers in the Global South, and makes them dependent on more developed countries.
  • Supermarkets have a HUGE amount of control over food prices and over what we buy, and they are the obvious target to pressure so that food producers and farmworkers are paid better.
  • The cheap, processed calories in the global north and extreme poverty in the global south produced by this system help explain the seemingly contradicting existence of a billion starving and even more overweight.

I believe people need to realize that our food system is intimately interconnected with those of other, namely poorer countries.  We need those corporations in the thin part of the hourglass to perhaps forfeit a fraction of their gigantic profit to the many suffering at the production end, which wouldn’t end up costing a whole lot more to the many at the consumption end. And even if it did cost consumers significantly more, isn’t it worth it to save so many people from hunger and poverty? I realize this post was quite biased, so feel free to leave your thoughts: for, against, or in between.

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