Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hunger, Poverty and the Environment

I had the pleasure of attending the 15th Annual State of the World Symposium today to hear the discussion about "Innovations that Nourish the Planet." This fabulous book profiles several innovative food and agriculture projects happening in sub-Saharan Africa and includes ideas on how to spread these to other areas of the world. If you want some inspiration and hope, get this book.

David Beckman of Bread for the World spoke about how poverty, hunger and the environment are related. Hungry people without the resources to acquire food will exploit the environment to feed themselves and their families. And, I don't blame them.

I continue to be struck by the irony of, and curious about the ability to solve, the hunger and obesity problem. I would further Mr. Beckman's idea with the contention that poverty, obesity and the environment are also related. The poor have less access to whole, natural, organic foods which are, generally speaking, more expensive. The poor also spend a larger percentage of their time working so they have less time to prepare meals at home and therefore consume a larger portion of processed and fast foods. And, food stuffs with a larger negative impact on our environment (heavily treated crops and processed foods replete with chemical additives) comprise the majority of the food the overweight and obese consume.

The simplest ideas are always, always best. The Innovations that Nourish the Planet contains many simple ideas working in Africa that I think could also serve both the hungry and overweight in the US. We have a great deal to learn from each other. And, we have the opportunity to thrive if we embrace our global food village.

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