Putting food first



In a country where overstocked supermarkets, buffets and refrigerators are everywhere, it is difficult to notice that there is currently a global food crisis. It is hard to imagine that nearly a billion people go to bed hungry every night, but that is the reality of the 2011 food crisis.

Between October and January, food prices rose 15 percent. This shift in prices is the highest change ever recorded, and according to the World Bank, it has moved 44 million people into poverty in a matter of months.

Climate changes, higher rates of livestock production and an increased demand in biofuels are all key contributing factors in the largest food crisis the world has ever seen. These issues have led to a fury of political, social and economic changes and were a key factor in the riots in Egypt, Tunisia and Bangladesh.  

A few years ago, using corn as a means of fueling vehicles was seen as the ultimate alternative to gasoline. But now, this shift is having extremely negative effects on people all over the globe.

Using corn as a means of fueling vehicles raises the demand for corn. This means that either there will be a shortage of corn for human and animal consumption because there is a stagnant supply or that farmers must produce more corn. This is a tricky situation because it’s difficult to allocate more land to farming without displacing people and it’s also hard to feed people when there are not enough of basic food crops like corn and cassava.

The result of this problem is the global food crisis. It has led to raising food prices from the Philippines to Liberia and everywhere in between.

This weekend, Ghanaians rose up and demanded that prices be lowered. These demands were the result of the release of a Gallup poll that stated that in the past year 53 percent of Ghanaians said they did not have enough money to buy food for themselves and their families. And Ghana is not alone in this problem — 57 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have said they have been faced with the same food scarcity and price issues.

These statistics illustrate that there is a huge dilemma occurring. The World Bank has estimated that poor individuals typically spend between 50 to 75 percent of their income on food, which means that sharp increases in food prices limit the poor’s access to simply eat. Steps must be taken to add to the global food supply and ensure that people have access to the food they need.

Everyone should have access to food, education and healthcare. However, with the rising cost of staples like corn and cassava, many people will have to allocate more of their budgets to food and less to things like healthcare and education.

These changes will have huge impacts on the future of children and adults around the  continent and must be addressed now before it is too late.

We have the power to say no to biofuels and yes to more sustainable solutions. We must demand that everyone has access to food and start putting food first.

­— tmkennel@indiana.edu

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