Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to Feed the World

I will confess right up front that I often (at least once a week) end up throwing something out of my fridge that I forgot about or didn't use in time before it went bad. Mostly fresh produce in the drawer at the bottom or leftovers that just never got eaten. Steve gets on my case about the waste of food, and I agree with him. I actually kept track and it turns out I'm throwing away approximately $160 of food a year because of my own lack of planning. About $3 a week. Now it doesn't seem like much does it? But I did some checking around amongst other women who I know clean out the fridge before grocery shopping and discovered that it depends in part where you live. In America larger amounts and costlier foods are thrown away, in my survey it was estimated at about $8 per week of meat, veg and bread with some households reaching $20. Canada averages about $6, Europe on the average was $5 and Australia $8. In developing countries almost nothing is thrown away and certainly not meat!

So where am I going with this little social commentary? We are living in an age of both food scarcity and inflation. Food prices are rising sharply the world over. In Canada the price of wheat has doubled in 14 months for things like animal feed and flour. Gone are the days of 20kg flour for $4.99 And while that makes us moan in the developed world it makes basic food out of reach in the truly poor countries. Places like India and the African sub-continent are experiencing drought and famine like never before. As of 2010 World Hunger estimated that 925 million people as experiencing hunger. That's about 1 person in 7. Here's their definitions and stats for last year. With the bad growing conditions experienced in many of the grain growing regions of the world this year, Canada included, we can expect this number to sharply rise. We've all seen the images of starving babies and the problems seen insurmountable due to the sheer extent of the problem, of conflict, government corruption and our lack of control over the weather. We hear that the world can no longer produce enough food for all.

Well, that's a lie.

At our current population levels we do indeed produce more than enough to feed every person on Earth more than 2500 calories each day. Some estimate that everyone could eat 2700 calories per day and we'd still have lots left over. The internet is full of reports about the annual harvests in each region year by year so we know that this is true. The problem is that food resources are unevenly distributed with some areas not being able to grow or buy food and others literally throwing food away.

Here's a trailer for a documentary that I thought looked really interesting. Maybe it will make you think about what you can do to solve this problem, even a little. Buy from farmers, rely on your garden more and the store less, plan meals and shopping together...the list goes on. I talk a lot about being self-sufficient and making the best of the resources we've got. If we could all truly live like this then food could be more easily transported to poorer nations because it would be more cost effective for growers rather than shipping it to us in the rich west and hoping to get a premium price for it. After all, food is a business. And business is about making money. Let's not kid ourselves.

I know that I'll get a few comments about how famine is nature's way of lowering population and how it's weeding out the strong from the weak. (really the rich from the poor) And that's easy to say when you're not the one who's hungry. But if we give vaccinations to help save lives without regard for population growth, how come we can't give them more food too? Just a thought. And one more reason we as a family are working hard to become self-sufficient.

“Taste the Waste“ — the trailer from on Vimeo.

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