Food Shortages and Aid Wastages

mudpie.jpgRising food prices are becoming a global problem. This article from the Economist summarizes the wide-ranging impact of the crisis. Josette Sheeran, head of the UN’s World Food Program, says that the rising price of food is not just causing hunger for the poorest, but has effects throughout the income scale:

For the middle classes it means cutting out medical care. For those on $2 a day, it means cutting out meat and taking the children out of school. For those on $1 a day, it means cutting out meat and vegetables and eating only cereals. And for those on 50 cents a day, it means total disaster.

And what might disaster look like? A few hundred miles from the US, dirt has become a new satiation option:

In Haiti, where three-quarters of the population earns less than $2 a day and one in five children is chronically malnourished, the one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically consumed only by the most destitute. “It’s salty and it has butter and you don’t know you’re eating dirt,” said Olwich Louis Jeune, 24, who has taken to eating them more often in recent months. “It makes your stomach quiet down.”

The Economist has some good ideas for responding to the crisis, though I wish they’d take more seriously inequality as the main underlying cause of the crises here. Oxfam has put out an “Action Alert” to reform the U.S. farm bill:

[C]urrent price increases are causing widespread hunger for millions of poor people. Yet US food aid policies require all food to be shipped halfway around the world, draining critical aid money on needless costs. Congress could change this policy in the coming weeks, and we need your action immediately.

Congress is still debating the Farm Bill, the legislative package that governs our food and farm policy, including international food aid programs. A simple change to the law—to allow some cash for local purchases of food—would immediately increase the efficiency of food aid programs and feed more hungry people.

They offer a letter to that effect here. Even if we are “running out of planet to exploit,” some small changes now could make an enormous difference in the lives of the poor.

Photo Credit: El Ramon.

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