The first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind. Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.”-Norman Borlaug
World Food Day 2013 was yesterday, October 16. Sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations the day sheds light on the global status and issues related to hunger. The World Food Day website (http://www.worldfooddayusa.org) serves as an excellent resource on the facts – statistics, organizations involved in reducing world hunger, events, background materials readily accessible to those who want to know more or to teach others. Focus of the day is on progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals to which 189 nations around the world agreed after the 2000 Millennium Summit. First among the eight agreed-upon goals was to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.” (http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview/)
There is good and bad news. This month the annual State of Food Security in the World was issued by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme. The report determined that “some 842 million people, or roughly one in eight, suffered from chronic hunger in 2011-2013. Chronic hunger is defined to mean that these 842 million people are “not getting enough food to lead active and healthy lives.”
Most of those hungry people live in developing regions (Southern Asia (295 million), sub-Saharan Africa (223 million) and Eastern Asia (267 million). At the same time, 15.7 % live in developing nations, including the U.S, including Minnesota, including northern Dakota County. Each day I see those people arrive to obtain their quota from the food shelf at the nonprofit where I volunteer.
Efforts to alleviate world hunger do seem to be having an effect. As of this month 62 countries have reached the MDG target of reducing the proportion of people suffering from hunger by 2015. An additional six countries are on track to meet the 2015 goal. There are signs of collaboration including the Food Assistance Convention (http://www.foodassistanceconvention.org/en/press/press.aspx) which commits signatories to a more efficient and effective response to food and nutrition insecurity. The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement (http://scalingupnutrition.org/about) involves more than forty developing countries, together with donors, civil society, the private sector and UN organizations, in a collaborative effort to end food insecurity.
“Calling for quality, not just quantity” appears to be a growing focus of these individual and combined efforts. The issue of quality standards – in particular who sets those standards – is being hotly contested at the second session of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP) talks soon to be resumed in Brussels. As described in yesterday’s post, competing Minnesota interests are on the table in those negotiations – more on that in a separate post.
The real challenge for mere mortals is to pay attention! The talks do make a difference to anyone who depends on a healthy food chain. It may take some digging to learn what’s happening – to sort out the players and their ultimate goal, consider the implications on the farm economy, the food business, the environment, and the safety, price and nutritional quality of the food that reaches our grocery store or food shelf. Though we may not have time or inclination to master the regulatory details of food standards, it behooves us to pay attention what’s going on in Brussels. Whether we know it or not, we have a stake in the TTIP talks.