Food for Thought

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Former MWW staffer Sara Rossi returns with more jottings from the World Affairs Council Conference, held March 11-12 in San Francisco.

One topic that was a central focus at the World Affairs Conference was food. The issues addressed ranged from world hunger, the global food crisis, and agricultural sustainability to the local food movement, obesity, and rising health care costs associated with nutrition-related diseases. Today, I’ll focus on the first half of these issues in the global context.

Did you know that one billion people in the world suffer from malnutrition? Or that only 8% of malnutrition is due to war and natural disaster, while 92% is due to chronic poverty?

Did you know that in 2008 more food was produced than ever before–enough to feed 11 billion people–but that more people went hungry in 2008 than ever before?

As dire as these statistics may sound, there are promising initiatives striving to decrease suffering and create global food equity.


The United States government is starting a new program that will create capacity for increased agricultural production in developing countries. The program will help local farmers increase yield to feed their communities, thereby gaining independence from reliance on foreign food aid. This will–hopefully–alleviate poverty and malnutrition, increase income levels, and help protect the environment–when people can produce their own food, food aid doesn’t need to be transported thousands of miles. 

Developing farming capacity in the world’s poorest countries, especially in places like sub-Saharan Africa, where agriculture employs nearly two-thirds of the population, may be one of the most effective aid strategies currently available, as growth in agriculture has shown to be twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. However, sub-Saharan Africa’s geography and climate are not very conducive to agricultural production. Water is sparse, making irrigation a challenge. Transportation from harvest sites to larger markets in the region is also extremely difficult. The subtropical climate, political instability, and lack of advanced technology are yet other factors limiting the potential for agricultural development.

Many feel that we have the tools to solve the crisis of world hunger in our lifetime. President Barack Obama has committed $3.5 billion over the next three years to targeted agricultural investments in the developing world. According to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton,

“The question is not whether we can end hunger, it’s whether we will.”  

Visit the ONE Campaign or the State Department websites to learn more about world hunger and food issues,

Next: Michelle Obama’s campaign for healthy school lunches and the Slow Food movement.

Sara Rossi

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