Saturday, May 3, 2008

Food Crisis Worldwide

This morning, during breakfast with my husband, I mentioned that I was getting concerned about what I am reading in the papers lately about the food crisis. More specifically, what does it mean for me and our family. I decided I would grab the articles and give you some of the statistics that our local paper is reporting.

But before I proceed, let me tell you in a nutshell how we eat (and have eaten all of our lives): (1) I have never experienced a shortage of food ever; (2) we have always had an excess of choices of food; (3) we waste food continually - be it leftovers gone bad or fresh food just not eaten in time, and gone bad; (4) we have enjoyed mostly good health when eating moderately and choosing nutritious foods, but also compromised heath at times, due to our often excessive lifestyle (consuming too much and selecting foods at the low end of the nutritious scale).

Now let me tell you about a woman living on the edge of the Sahara. She is a widow, raising her family of 3. She works to live, weaving textile and earns .50 cents a day. How is Manthita Sou coping with the her piece of the world's food crisis? She has stopped eating breakfast, has tea for lunch and serves "soupy sorghum" for dinner. Because wheat prices are up 67% in her local market, she chooses the cheaper sorghum (even sorghum is up 20% in the last 12 months). I seriously doubt that she nor her children have ever suffered from excess weight. Quite certainly, they are barely surviving which falls into the compromised health arena.

Hmmm...... looking at these two pictures, there's me, throwing away food (BUT it's in the green bin....where it gets transferred to the composting centre, which makes the waste all the more acceptable) and there is Manthita Sou with barely any food for herself and children!

The glaring statistic is that there are 1 billion people living on this planet surviving on less than $1.00 per day. "The UN World Food Program has warned of an alarming surge in hunger... This crisis, it fears, will plunge more than 100 million of the world's poorest people deeper into poverty."

What are the reasons for rising food prices?
1. Trade restrictions (export taxes, bans, etc) by the countries who produce the rice, grain, corn, wheat and soybean. This effect pressures the tight supplies and increase prices.
2. Increased demand for meat. Effect - grain crops intended for human consumption now diverted for livestock consumption to "feed" the human consumption of livestock. (1 lb of BEEF requires 7 to 8.5 lbs grain; 1 lb or PORK requires 5 to 7 lbs grain). (Are we completely stupid? This equation is just plain crazy! There isn't enough grain to go around because we are giving it to the animals that we want to eat and fueling the cars we want to drive - the big problem is, billions of us don't have cars to drive and can't afford the meat to eat.)
3. Weather (heat, drought & excessive rain) damage crops. Stocks have fallen world-wide due to weather conditions.
4. Biofuels - corn used for car fuel (ethanol). In the US back in 1997, only 5% of corn crops went into ethanol production; today, 25% is produced for ethanol. Effect - corn prices up 50% since last year. European countries importing cheaper sorghum for livestock feed (there's that meat consumption factor again). Effect - sorghum prices went up. (Sorghum is a grain widely consumed by the poorest of our fellow-men.)
5. Fuel - over the past year and a bit, a barrel of crude oil cost $61.05. A few weeks back, the same barrel cost $118.52. Effect - tremendous increase in cost to transport food around our planet. (Example: US to Japan, one year ago, freight cost was $60/ton - today it is $110/ton; US to Europe, a year ago, freight cost was $38/ton, today $75/ton.)

If you are reading this page, I know you are concerned too. We are the movers and shakers of this world....let us be action now.

UN world Food Program -
CARE International -
World Vision -

May 5, 2008: a reader also suggested this site -

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Anonymous said...

Those are some startling statistics. Reading that, I feel even guiltier about the amount of food we waste in our household. We usually buy a lot and store it in the fridge but then we forget about it and sooner or later it starts to rot and turn bad. So we throw it out (although, like you, we also use the green cart which, I guess, gives us the illusion that it's more "acceptable" because it's going to become compost). In fact, I was just clearing out the fridge yesterday and ended up throwing out A LOT. It's only Sunday and our mini green cart in the kitchen is now full. Just thinking about the excessive and wasteful lifestyle I lead puts me to shame when I look at the horrifying statistics about food consumption in less developed countries.

Thank you for posting these statistics and making us more aware of how we eat and live. It's time to make a few lifestyle changes.

Compassionate Consumption said...

Dear Anonymous,
Thanks for visiting the blog and your comment. I am encouraged and inspired by your comment as well.

bluesky said...

A great supporter of World Vision is is a dual-purpose site for building an English vocabulary and raising money for under privileged children in the most
impoverished places around the world.

Check it out at

Compassionate Consumption said...

Thank you bluesky; I will add this link to the piece for others to see. I appreciate your bringing this to my and other's attention.