Thursday, October 16, 2008

World Food Day

On the heels of the Blog Action Day on poverty comes World Food Day, "to increase awareness, understanding and informed, year-around action to alleviate hunger." Food is tightly tied to poverty; if people spend all their waking hours trying to get food, there's no time for anything else like education or trying to improve things for your family.

But hunger is one of those things we've licked here in the U.S., right? Wrong. With the recent economic meltdown, the numbers of people utilizing food banks have soared. Even before that, our local food bank was providing assistance for 40,000+ people, the majority of those children and the elderly.

It's likely to get worse before it gets better. In the 20th century, the U.S. went from from smaller farms raising a variety of crops to industrial farms raising a single crop. Fertilizer synthesized from fossil fuels helped create huge increases in yields, and government subsidies helped make yield the only thing that mattered (you can read more about the industrialization of food in The Omnivore's Dilemma.) It lead to corn becoming ubiquitous in processed foods, especially fast food. Corn-fed beef, corn-fed chickens, sweetened with corn syrup, fried in corn oil. If we are what we eat, a lot of us are corn. But that cheap corn is dependent on fossil fuels (even as some of it is being used to create alternatives to fossil fuels, a misplaced approach if there ever was one), and as supplies drop and costs rise, that will effect the cost of those cheap processed foods. The monoculture of industrial farming also leads to depletion of nutrients from the soil, downstream pollution, loss of genetic diversity in food plants, less nutritious foods, and a host of other problems.

There's no easy answer, but increased awareness is where it begins. Read Michael Pollan's open letter to the next president for more information. Support your local food producers. Eat less meat. (As an added bonus, it's healthier and cheaper.) Plant a vegetable garden. And volunteer and donate to your local food bank.

No comments: