Archive for December, 2011
It’s difficult to look at the photographs. They are almost stereotypical. An African child sitting in the dust, worn out by despair, painfully thin. The human suffering in Africa is overwhelming. It tugs at our hearts, perhaps inspiring us to open our checkbooks. Hunger is not, however, just an issue in developing countries. It’s a problem the entire planet shares.
According to census data released September 13, 2011, the poverty level in the United States has risen to 15.1%, the highest since 1993. This translates to 46.2 million people living below the poverty line in the United States. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that 14.5% of US households lacked access to adequate food for everyone in the home at some point in 2010. The statistics for global hunger are even more appalling. According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), the percentage of undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa was 30% in 2010.
There are many different proposals to alleviate world hunger, but broadly defined there are basically two methods that produce raw food products:
(1) Industrial scale operations typically run by big corporations using expensive machinery and chemicals to produce large amounts of consistent, relatively cheap food.
(2) Small farms typically run by families using labor intensive methods to produce a usually more expensive but superior crop.
Big companies have the capital and the ability to borrow funds to purchase expensive farm equipment and substantial tracts of land that can be used to produce massive crops quickly. In theory this food could feed millions of hungry people. Is large scale agriculture the solution to world hunger? The capacity to produce food does not automatically guarantee access to that food. If a family is living under the poverty level, very little is left to spend on food after basic housing needs have been met. It really doesn’t matter how much food is available for purchase in these situations because there just simply isn’t enough money to buy adequate food.
Paul Collier, Professor of Economics at Oxford University, disagrees. In an article in the New York Times, published April 15, 2008, he argues that even though the family farm is more romantic than a huge conglomerate, the food crisis the world is facing needs to be addressed with technology and innovation, not romanticism. He points out that the US and Europe are “rich enough to afford such folly”, but Africa is not. “In Europe deep-seated fears of science have been manipulated into a ban on both the production and import of genetically modified crops.” This is regrettable in Mr. Collier’s opinion, but not catastrophic in an area of wealth. He states “Africa definitely cannot afford this self-denial. It needs all the help it can possibly get from GM [genetically modified] drought-resistant crops”.
Small scale farming operations don’t have anywhere near the production capacity of their mega sized counterparts. Subsistence farms in developing countries, many of which are run by women, sometimes even fail to meet the needs of the family that runs them. Is it reasonable to believe that small scale farms can produce enough food to feed the rapidly growing world population? Some scientists believe it’s possible. For example, Christos Vasilikiotis, Ph.D, University of California, Berkley, states in his paper on organic farming, “Counter to the widely held belief that industrial agriculture is more efficient and productive, small farms produce far more per acre than large farms.” He points out further that “Even in the United States, the smallest farms, those 27 acres or less, have more than ten times greater dollar output per acre than larger farms
Not all small scale farmers are good stewards of their land and animals. Not all large scale farms have a complete disregard for the environment. What about the safety of our food? Is small scale production less likely to produce food that carries the bacteria that cause food borne illnesses? There are probably as many approaches to food production as there are farms. What is the answer?
Some experts believe that the solution lies in a combination of both ideologies. If large scale agricultural operations were to become more aware of the environmental impact of their activities and more sensitive to the needs of small farmers, perhaps a compromise of sorts can be made. An Oxfam Research report concluded that in order to feed our growing world population, several policies had to be implemented, including encouraging synergy between small farms and large industrial operations. The report also encouraged more support for small farm owners and regulation of large agricultural operators to “enhance social benefits and good environmental stewardship”.
My goal next year is to educate myself in an attempt to understand the complexities of our food supply. I know that the answers to world hunger are complex, but I may be able to identify steps that an individual can take to help in some way. At the very least, if I can understand the issue better, I can avoid being a part of the problem and perhaps maybe even become a part of the solution. I don’t want to look at those pictures any more without trying to help in some way.Posted in She Loves | 11 Comments »
This post is in honor of the letter “f” and part of Jenny Matlock’s Alphabet Thursday. For more fearless “f” posts, please click here http://jennymatlock.blogspot.com/
If you have fresh spinach, rinse it thoroughly with hot water and set aside. If not, place a package of frozen spinach in a colander and rinse with hot water until it’s thawed.
press it in paper towels until all of the water is squeezed out of it!
crack a couple of eggs in a bowl and whisk with a tablespoon or so of milk
melt a pat of butter in a non stick pan on low heat
As soon as the butter melts, turn the heat to high and add the egg mixture, shaking it so it all cooks evenly
As soon as it starts to set up, add salt and pepper
some of the spinach on one side only
top the spinach with some feta
As soon as the feta starts to melt, turn the omelette on itself
served with home fries and a big cup of hot coffee, it’s breakfast fit for a Queen!Breakfast
Posted in She Cooks | 24 Comments »
This post is in honor of the letter “e” and part of Jenny Matlock’s Alphabet Thursday. For more “E” posts, please click here http://jennymatlock.blogspot.com/
What is a locavore you ask? A locavore is someone who attempts to fulfill their nutritional needs by buying food that is produced in their local area. Some locavores try to eat products grown within 100 miles of their homes. Some are more informal in their attempts to eat local (I’m one of those). At any rate, here are my top ten reasons for eating locally:
1. Local food tastes better. Actually, for me, that would be enough in and of itself!
2. It’s safer. Every time I read another article about salmonella outbreaks or e coli, I become recommitted to knowing who exactly produces the food I put in my body.
3. It helps the local economy. Money spent on local foods and artisans stays in the community.
4. It’s better for the environment. Locally produced products don’t need to be shipped via trucks that pollute the air and use valuable fossil fuels (sorry long haul truckers, but it’s true!) Industrial farming puts large amounts of pesticides and herbicides in the soil and in our watersheds.
5. You help assure that your grandchildren will have the opportunity to eat a vine ripened heirloom tomato. By supporting small local farms you help the people who grow food that tastes good to stay in business (as opposed to the people who grow food because it can be shipped easier)
6. You can cut down on the amount of pesticides and herbicides your family consumes. Typically small farmers use less of these poisons than industrial farms use.
7. It’s a gift to your children and grandchildren. Sustainable farming can help make sure that they will be able to produce healthy food for their families.
8. You can help alleviate world hunger. Yes, it’s true! Industrial farms use large tracts of land to feed people far away. That land could be sustainably farmed by local farmers to feed their families.
9. You can help preserve open spaces. Family farms that stay in production won’t be sold to developers.
10. It’s just the right thing to do. You can feel it in your heart and see it in the smiles of the farmers and artisans you support.She Loves | 26 Comments »