This post is part II of World Hunger: There’s more to the problem than we’re led to believe. Click the link to read about the surprising and often hidden causes of food insecurity.
This post outlines 3 areas where change needs to be made and the actions we can take to help reduce world hunger.
1. Convert land to sustainable agriculture
In the U.S., about 51% of the land base is used for agriculture, most of which is devoted to industrially farmed commodity crops. The food manufactured from these crops–feed for livestock, high fructose corn syrup, processed and packaged foods–contribute to numerous health problems, chronic disease and obesity; they’re certainly not the cure for hunger. The most recent edition of the American Farm Bill brought some good news for sustainable farmers, but 90% of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) subsidies (that’s several billion dollars) continue to support the cultivation of commodity crops.
Imagine if every acre of cultivable land were dedicated to growing fruits and vegetables in sustainable methods, there’d be plenty of food to go around. The food grown this way would be more flavorful and nutritious and would promote better health along with the development of thriving food cultures. Achieving a complete conversion from the current wasteful practices of industrial agriculture to sustainable practices will require government aid in the following forms:
- easier access to loans for small-scale agricultural initiatives
- the presence and influence of sustainable farming advocates within government settings
- policy reforms which support sustainable farming
- the provision of educational resources needed by ecologically-minded farmers to make a viable living in harmony with the land they farm
Most importantly, government organizations need to withdraw their strong endorsements of the interests of industrial corporations and start supporting the production of real food.
Thankfully, there is some progress being made. The USDA has started to see the value of investing in regional food economies and plans to spend $52 million to back local food systems and organic farming. The United Nations recently released a report which cited organic sustainable agriculture as the key to feeding the world and dealing with the repercussions of destructive weather conditions. How do we, as sustainable consumers, keep this momentum moving forward? There are several options to consider when adopting sustainable practices.
How to become a sustainable eater:
- Buy organic, when possible.
- Buy the whole, unprocessed forms of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and animal protein then cook them yourself.
- Learn the seasons of food and eat according to them.
- Buy meat directly from farmers who pasture-raise their livestock. Avoid purchasing and supporting factory-farmed meat.
- Grow your own food.
- Compost the inedible parts of food (peels, cores, hard seeds, pits…).
- Make your personal levels of food waste practically non-existent (more about this in a bit).
- Buy from local farmers. More about this straightaway…
2. Farmers present in local communities
Not too long ago every town, village and rural area could enjoy the seasonal, low- or no-chemical bounty of at least one farmer in its community. In other words, the community fed itself and farmers were respected for it. Now we have expanses of food deserts which are serviced by convenience stores stocking little more than sodium- and sugar-laden processed foods. Farmers are nonexistent because no resident can afford to attempt to make a living in agriculture. To end hunger, this has to change.
Once the rural sector is primed for sustainable agriculture, the resurgence of local, sustainable farms must be accompanied by the resurrection of community marketplaces, Community Supported Agriculture programs and partnerships with regional businesses and organizations. These endeavors will integrate the local food system into the economy, thereby strengthening and feeding communities. It’s time for farmers to become recognized and respected entities within the community again. I know, there are plenty of places with booming farmer’s markets and local food scenes. But these places tend to be tucked into the affluent areas of cities which cast a privileged air upon eating local and sustainable. To eradicate hunger, mindfully-grown food must be affordable for and accessible to everyone. Here’s how Vermont (one of the most food-insecure states in the U.S.) is making this happen.
3. Eliminate food waste
For most of us, this will be the easiest place to start in our personal campaigns against global hunger. We can begin by cooking at home more often since, unfortunately, most restaurants are wasteful operations. A little planning will ensure we only bring home the food we need and it’s turned into meals before spoiling. Thus more food is eaten, less goes to waste.
- End Food Waste Now is a campaign which offers various resources about addressing the challenges of food waste.
- This article by National Geographic gives details of the current rates of food loss and food waste (different things, as explained in the article) and how we can reduce those rates.
- Also worth reading is the Food Tank’s list of 21 Inspiring Initiatives Working to Reduce Food Waste Around the World.
- The website, Save Food from the Fridge, along with its parallel project, Share your Food Knowledge, is gathering and dispensing know-how about traditional food preservation in an effort to eliminate waste.
- There’s also the blog, The Kitchen Ecosystem, which provides guidance on creating small-batch, interlinked recipes so hardly anything edible ends up as waste or compost.
I realize that blogging about the complicated problem of world hunger will do little in terms of reducing it. But each one of us has the responsibility to understand the problem and work toward a solution; this post is the beginning of my contribution. Only with a better understanding of the challenges surrounding hunger is it clear that global food security can (and should) be promoted through our personal food choices.
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