Getting Smart about Food

When I first started putting together this blog I referred to my second indicator as simply “Food.” But after writing the initial post, I had to change it to “Good Food” as I realized that unless you are in an emergency famine situation and there is no other alternative, sending massive quantities of rice, wheat, and corn to developing countries is about as good an idea as stuffing Americans full of donuts, potato chips, pizza, and drinks laden with corn syrup. (If we’re looking for clues to the global obesity and related diabetes epidemics, there might be a few there.)

Recent news stories have been (in typical panicky media style) focusing on projected food deficits and the need for a second “Green Revolution” to increase the quantity of global food production. More food needs to be grown, the experts seem to be saying, and more land needs to be more productive.

We don’t need More Food. What we need is Better Food and Better Education (We also need Better Distribution. Much of the world’s food simply gets wasted through either inefficient systems or outright corruption both in the developed world and in the developing world. But that is a subject for another blog!)

At a recent Hunger Project gathering in New York, John Coonrod summed up our misunderstandings bluntly, pointing out that one thing both the developed and the developing world have in common is that, “We are all stupid about nutrition, rich and poor!”

The predominant theory across the planet still seems to be that there’s not enough quantity but fortunately there are more and more people out there advocating for quality.

You can watch this short series of discussions sponsored by the BBC on how to eliminate poverty to see one particular person, Vandana Shiva, a scientist and grassroots activist from India, explain how empowering small farmers (and not empowering large corporations) is a big part of increasing quality while eliminating poverty and hunger.

Trees_for_LifeIn Africa, the Moringa tree, found to be unusually rich in vitamins, is being cultivated in several countries providing a reliable nutrition source to stave off famine.

In the U.S., people are also questioning the large food companies and their methods, given the evidence of obesity rates climbing.

And there is a growing movement to simply grow your own which tends to be higher in nutrition. I am not the world’s best gardener but I have managed to grow a few tomatoes and some herbs this past summer on my small porch. (Maybe if we all grew one thing, there would be no “food deficit”?) This TED talk also sums up how small groups of people might be able to grown some of their own food, learn something about nutrition, and make their community a better place to live!

Like John said, we’re all stupid about nutrition, but it’s time to get smart!

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC


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