IT’S THE SMALL THINGS
If you know me, or at least follow me on my social media platforms, then you are aware of the happiness food brings me. A good meal, or a comfort snack is no fail, my instant pick me up. Whether it is a simple home-cooked meal, take-out from one of my favorite restaurants, a snack from a food stall, a favorite from fast food, or an elaborate meal at a fine dining establishment, it will instantly put me in a good mood. Lately though as I have been enjoying my meals, I cannot help but think about the food crisis that is going on across the globe – from inflation in prices of produce, to food wastage to poverty – it is undeniable that a lot of people around the world are hungry. But what exactly are the contributing factors to this crisis, and what can we do as consumers to lessen the guilt of enjoyment? Should we even be guilty to be eating three full meals a day when some people around the world are not even assured of one?
I spoke to a friend of mine who works with the United Nations World Food Programme, and he affirmed my queries. Indeed, their studies show that as many as 828 million people go to bed hungry every night, and that the number of those facing acute food insecurity has soared – from 135 million to 345 million – since 2019. Sadly, a total of 50 million people in 45 countries are teetering on the edge of famine (World Food Programme, 2022). He confirmed to me as well that this seismic hunger crisis has been caused by a deadly combination of mainly four factors. Firstly, conflict, which is seen to still be the biggest driver of hunger, with 60 percent of the world’s hungry living in areas afflicted by war and violence. The events unfolding in Ukraine are further proof of how conflict feeds hunger, and forces people out of their homes, eventually wiping out their sources of income. The second is climate change because climate shocks destroy lives, crops, livelihoods and undermine people’s ability to feed themselves. Third, are the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic which are continuing to drive hunger to unprecedented levels. And lastly, inflation. Costs are at an all-time high. To support this claim, he shared with me that the World Food Programme’s monthly operating costs are US$73.6 million above their 2019 average – a staggering 44 percent rise. The extra now spent on operating costs would have previously fed four million people in a month.
Charity always begins at home, and the most we can do as citizens of this world is to be wise consumers, and in our own little way, mitigate our contribution to food wastage beginning with ourselves, and our households. Let us cook only enough for our household, and when we are in restaurants, enough for the table. Should there be any extras, we can eat left overs the following day, or if these are quick to perish, make sure we share it with those who need it most, or who would benefit from it. If we want to go the extra mile, let us share our time and/or resources with soup kitchens, or organizations with a cause that revolves around feeding. Frankly, I do not feel that we should be guilty when we enjoy what makes us happy – food or otherwise – for as long as we do not do so in excess, and more importantly, we are not harming others in the process. Moreover, if we consciously make an effort to do our share for the betterment of society, and to help reduce wastage, then in our own way, we are doing what we can to address the crisis. Although it may not seem like much, what is important is that we are aware, and that we care, and that we try to do something about it. For ourselves, and for others. These are how the tidal waves of change always begin.