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Hunger? What's the real problem?

Whereas progress was made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, hunger has been slowly but steadily on the rise for the past decade, FAO said. The number of hungry people increased between 1995-97 and 2004-06 in all regions except Latin America and the Caribbean. But even in this region, gains in hunger reduction have been reversed as a result of high food prices and the global economic downturn that started in 2008.
Today, one in nine people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life, making hunger and malnutrition the number one risk to health worldwide -- greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The greatest scandal of our age is the fact that just under 1 billion people on the planet go to bed hungry every night. This is despite the fact that we produce more than enough to feed every single person in the world.
Why is there hunger? The obvious answer to this question is that there must be a lack of food. It’s noth…

Cheap hospital food

Scotland’s biggest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s catering budget was slashed last year by £1million and documents released under freedom of information laws suggest the average daily spend per person is just £4.08.

Critics say patients could end up taking longer to heal because they are not getting adequate nutrients and vitamins at a time when they need them most.

Dr Margaret Richie, of Edinburgh University, said it was unlikely the limited budget could provide a healthy diet, unless patients were served baked beans every day.

It is a waste

Yet another report on unnecessary food waste. This time from India.

 40% of India’s fruits and vegetables and roughly 22% of wheat are lost annually due to poor cold storage facilities and infrastructural bottlenecks, according to a study done by a UK-based institute. 1.2-2 billion tonne of food items, or 30-50% of total production, is lost each year. Losses of rice in South-east Asian nations can range from 37% to 80% of production, depending on the stage of development, totalling around 180 million tonne a year, the report also said. About 550 billion cubic meters of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer

‘‘This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as the nearly one billion people in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food,’’ said Tim Fox, the head of energy and environment at the Institution of M…

There is enough food to feed the world

Some attendees at a conference in London’s Chatham House to debate how to feed the planet’s growing population without degrading the earth’s resources argued that current levels of food production - if better managed - could accommodate everyone. They acknowledge that many people around the world are already going hungry, but contend this is not an issue of food shortage. Instead, they point out that vast quantities of edible produce are used for animal feed or biofuel production, or are allowed to spoil in storage or otherwise go to waste. 

The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo Nwanze, explained “There is enough food in the world to feed every man, woman and child. Yet one-third of the food that is produced goes to waste. Fifty-seven per cent of food produced is not used for consumption. There is enough food to feed every mouth. The issue is access to food.”

The issue is indeed access to food - free access.

Fact of the day

One hundred and ninety million – that’s more than the populations of Germany, France and Poland combined - is also the number of children affected by vitamin A deficiency around the world. India represents 37 percent of victims, including roughly 80 million children.

An insufficient intake of this vital nutrient – found in foods like liver, carrots and kale – can be fatal and causes blindness in 250,000 to 500,000 children every year.

 Solving the problem of hunger does not necessarily tackle the question of nutrition. For instance, rice can represent up to 70 percent of caloric intake in many Asian countries, while cassava – rich in calories but also poor in nutrients – is the main food source for many Africans.

FEED THE WORLD

One in eight people — 870 million worldwide — will go to bed hungry tonight. One-third of all child deaths globally are caused by under-nutrition. Most of the world’s hungry are farm families; 75 percent of the world’s poor are rural. In poor countries, people spend two-thirds of their daily income on food. When food prices rise, poor households eat less nutritious food. Malnutrition decreases learning capacity. 80 percent of our brain develops during the first 1,000 days of life; if malnourished, then it doesn’t recover.

The tragic irony is feeding the planet, now and in the future, can be done. According to estimates by several studies, there are already 3,000 calories available for every man, woman and child, which is more than enough to sustain us.

 Who cares what’s in store for the future, as long as the rich can pocket the money they make today? Who cares what their craving for more profits may bring tomorrow?

Why are you fat?

Nearly 14 percent of women in the world are considered obese, up from 7.9 percent in 1980. Among men, 10 percent are obese, up from 5 percent in 1980.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public policy at New York University, one of the leading nutritional experts who has written many books on the food industry, explains obesity rates started to rise in the 1980s, she says largely because of demands Wall Street placed on food makers.

Wall Street "forced food companies to try and sell food in an extremely competitive environment," she says. Food manufacturers "had to look for ways to get people to buy more food. And they were really good at it. I blame Wall Street for insisting that corporations have to grow their profits every 90 days."

 Large government subsidizes given to the corn, wheat, soybean and sugar industries allowed farmers to reap high returns on their crops. Farmers could grow these commodities cheaply and were encouraged by the food…

Wasted Capitalism

One third to one half of all food produced in the world goes to waste uneaten, according to data recently collected by the Natural Resources Defense Council and presented this month at the 2012 Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit. Yet the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 925 million people went undernourished in 2010 alone. And hunger is not a problem restricted to developing countries: last year, an estimated 1 in 4 American children lived in households where food was not always available, and 1 in 5 Americans sought food aid through the federal food stamp program.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average American throws away 33 pounds of food each month — that’s nearly 400 pounds each year. Food waste makes up nearly 14% of American families’ trash. Americans toss more food in their garbage cans than plastic products. This waste includes both leftover cooked foods, and food that was purchased but allowed to spoil without being e…

HUNGRY FOR PROFITS

Along with caviar and truffles, foie gras is part of the top three Western gourmet items. However, the forced feeding of geese in order to fatten up their livers has been plagued with controversy internationally. Geese or ducks forced to undergo gavage feeding, starting when they are between 10 and 14 weeks old, have a 20 to 30-centimeter-long tube stuck into their esophagus two or three times a day. Food is poured down this tube. Occasionally this causes the bursting of the esophagus. Sometimes the bird develops liver disease. “Feeding like this for two weeks is the limit of what the poor birds can bear. Beyond this limit, they’d die in large number,” says Zhou Zungo, director of the World Animals Welfare Farms Association.

Countries like Germany and Poland outlaw the “gavage” method of feeding, while California prohibits the sale of foie gras. the European Union has planned to stop, from 2019 onward, the production of this traditional cuisine. Currently, Hungary, which used to be the…

Poor and fat

Studies about the predictors of obesity in the UK have shown that the poorest are most likely to be obese. For example, one University of Glasgow study found that residents of an impoverished Glasgow neighbourhood were more than twice as likely to be obese compared with residents of an affluent neighbourhood only miles away. This pattern holds among children, teenagers and adults; men and women; and across ethnic groups.

In places such as Ethiopia (a low-income country that has had several serious famines in recent decades), the cheapest foods are the least calorie-dense; therefore, the poor systematically lack access to energy-rich foods, and have a higher likelihood of suffering from undernutrition and starvation. By contrast, in a city such as Glasgow, the cheapest foods are the most calorie-dense – kebabs, chips, crisps, pies and puddings, fizzy drinks etc – so the poor there are more at risk from obesity.

Deprived areas in cities , termed "food deserts" in the academic …

Malnutrition in the UK ?

“We think we are heading towards malnutrition happening here in the UK.” - Save the Children’s Colette Marshall told the BBC. "Benefits simply haven’t been enough and with rising food costs it means that families cannot afford to give children proper decent food. "

Children are being deprived of dietary staples and instead are being raised on cheap packaged food high in fat, salt and sugar. The Grocer magazine shows food prices rising by almost a fifth over the past year, with basic essentials such as rice and milk among the worst hit.

The crazy logic of capitalist economics

The Sunday Times has found that home-grown products are being transported thousands of miles overseas for processing before being put on sale back in Britain. Socialist Courier reported this market madness back here .

Scottish prawns are being hand-shelled in China, Atlantic haddock caught off Scotland is being prepared in Poland and Welsh cockles are being sent to Holland to be put in jars before going on sale in Britain. Meanwhile, products grown overseas are taking circuitous routes to Britain. African-grown coffee is being packed 3,500 miles away in India, Canadian prawns are processed in Iceland, and Bolivian nuts are being packed in Italy.“We are producing food in one corner of the world, packing it in another and then shipping it somewhere else. It’s mad.”

Dawnfresh, a Scottish seafood company that supplies supermarkets and other large retailers, cut 70 jobs last year after deciding to ship its scampi more than 5,000 miles to China to be shelled by hand, then shipped back to t…

the shopping price hike

High food costs have added £15 to a weekly supermarket shop for a family of four in the UK, new research suggests.
Comparison website MySupermarket says a basket of 24 staple items including tea bags, milk and eggs costs 15% more than it did 12 months ago. The findings are based on its price comparisons of certain everyday items at Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda.
The increases mean that families spending an average of £100 a week on food will be spending £780 a year more at a time when customers are under increasing pressure from higher mortgage, petrol and energy costs.
Johnny Stern, managing director of MySupermarket said: "The conclusion is that supermarkets are passing on a sizeable amount of the increased costs."
The price of wheat, rice and maize have nearly doubled in the past year . Analysts have warned that the higher prices are threatening to drive an extra 100 million people worldwide into poverty.
White loaf at Sainsbury's and Tesco: 65p - up 20%
Butter: 94p -…

Scotland and the food shortages

Britain is only 70% self-sufficient in cereal grains, down from 90% in the 1980s. Scotland is even worse, at only 40%. Most of that goes into the whisky industry and to animal feed. Scotland is thus almost totally dependent on others for this most basic of commodities for human consumption, which raises the question of whether Scotland could, if need be, feed itself.

The answer is yes, but only after significant change in land use and a rather drastic adjustment of the national diet.

Professor Peter Gregory, CEO of the Scottish Crop Research Institute says:"Technically, this is not a crisis for Scotland. There is enough arable land to provide for every person in Scotland. Our cereal yields are around twice the global average."

It would be possible to start making bread for five million people living in Scotland if we switched rape fields for wheat fields.

hunger: it’s a market thing

From Ian Bell of the Sunday Herald

Lots of food, lots of hunger: it’s a market thing.

Last week the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development was published...Its main findings were simple enough, however. There is enough food for everyone. It is cheaper and, broadly, more nutritious than it has been in decades, but 800 million go hungry...

...there are no food shortages. Instead, according to one of those complicated theories they teach at Oxford and the like, there are money shortages. Or rather - and this is apparently so complicated it never gets discussed - some people are very short of money and some are anything but...

...The relationships between land, food security, politics and bread at £1.13 a loaf are not abstract. The laws of economics should not be mistaken for acts of God...

As Bell writes , the law of economics is not abstract but neither is it complicated . Simply put , in capitalism , if you cannot pay , you cannot have , no matter yo…

Capitalism's Waste

Waste & Resources Action Programme reports that a third of the food we buy, amounting to 6.7 million tonnes, gets discarded from UK households annually. Fruit and vegetables are a major component at around 40% of this. The top five fruit & vegetables which get binned without even being touched are apples (4.4 million or 179,000 tonnes pa), potatoes(5.1m or 177,000 tonnes pa), bananas (1.6m or 77,000 tonnes pa), tomatoes (2.8m or 46,000 tonnes pa) and oranges (1.2m or 45,000 tonnes). Producing, storing and getting the food to UK homes consumes much energy through transport, packaging etc. If we could stop the wastage of all this food, it would save the equivalent of at least 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This would be equivalent to taking 1 in 5 cars off UK roads, according to WRAP.

The amount of discarded food-stuff is boosted by supermarket marketing promotions such as "two-for-one" deals with the result millions of Britons buy more than they need and then fa…

Food Shortages - "it's capitalism" - says a capitalist

We have reported on the rise in food prices that many commentators blame on changes in supply and demand for grain but the Times reports that the managing director of Greggs, the well known high street baker-shop chain , has attacked speculators for driving up the price of wheat and fuelling famine in Africa.

Michael Darrington said commodity traders were more to blame for spiralling food price inflation than poor harvests or farmland given over to biofuels.

“There are stocks of wheat and grain in the world, and crops are growing at the moment but funds are being set up as speculators see an opportunity to make some short-term money and someone has to pay for it. It's really sad for people in the developing world where food can account for 70 per cent of the family budget. Wheat is predominantly grown in America, Australia, Europe - the wealthier areas - and people in under-developed nations are hurting the most.” He added I suppose that's just capitalism but it's jolly …

Christmas Good Cheer

The Herald reports that food prices are set to rise around the globe after years of decline, with climate change making it harder for the world's poorest to get adequate food . Rising global temperatures as well as growing food consumption in rapidly developing countries such as China and India are pressuring the world food system, meaning that prices will rise for the foreseeable future, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. In addition, switching to crops used for biofuels will also reduce the amount of available food and increase prices

Hunger and malnutrition could rise as poor agricultural communities most sensitive to the environment, such as in Africa, are affected. Dependency on food imports will also increase as cereal yields decline in poorer countries. The world's agricultural production is projected to decrease by 16% by 2020 due to global warming, the report said, with land used for certain crops shrinking.

And we have the Independent repor…

Market Madness

Capitalism is a system that if it doesn't make the profit , it doesn't get made .

Low prices led to sheep on hill farms being slaughtered because they could not be sold and faced a shortage of grazing with the onset of winter. Mr Picken of National Farmers Union Scotland said the difficulties facing livestock farmers could see grassland being ploughed up and left fallow.

But when it comes to making a buck , there is always an alternative .

Mr Picken said the UK was lagging behind other countries in the production of biofuels. "So there is a bit of room so to speak for growing energy crops."

Ineos Enterprises' proposal to build one of Europe's biggest bio-diesel plants in Grangemouth was given the go-ahead . And there are pending plans by DMF Biodiesel for a processing facility in Rosyth . And there will be another at Motherwell , partly financed the Scottish Parliment's Regional Selective Assistance .

So as elsewhere in the world , it is will now be a matte…