Tuesday, November 20, 2012

~~~~~~~~~~~~~HUNGER: 3rd Course~~~~~~~~~~~~

 “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”
Helder Camara

The Root of the Problem by Eric Holt-Gimnez
The food crisis is a symptom of a food system in crisis. Bad weather, high oil prices, agrofuels, and speculation are only the proximate causes of a deeper, systemic problem. The root cause of the crisis is a global food system that is highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shock. This vulnerability springs from the risks, inequities, and externalies inherent in food systems that are dominated by a global industrial agri-foods complex. Built over the past half-century—largely with public funds for grain subsidies, foreign aid, and international agricultural development—the industrial agri-foods complex is made up of multinational grain traders, giant seed, chemical, and fertilizer corporations, processors, and global supermarket chains.
 The Green Revolution (1960-90) was a campaign led by the international agricultural research centers that aimed to modernize farming in the developing world. Impressive gains in national productivity were accompanied by the steady monopolization of seed and input markets by northern corporations. The highly celebrated Asian and Mexican "miracles" masked the loss of 90% of agro-biodiversity, the massive reduction of water tables, salinization and erosion of soils, and the displacement of millions of peasants to fragile hillsides, shrinking forests, and urban slums. Excluding China, the Green Revolution increased food per capita by 11%. However, the number of hungry people also increased by 11%.
 Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) of the 1980s-90s imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund followed, dismantling marketing boards, eliminating price guarantees, closing entire research and extension systems, breaking down tariffs, and deregulating agricultural markets. Southern countries were flooded with subsidized grain from the U.S. and Europe that was sold at prices far under the costs of production. This destroyed national agricultural markets and tied southern food security to global markets dominated by rich northern countries.
"The idea that developing countries should feed themselves is an anachronism from a bygone era. They could better ensure their food security by relying on U.S. agricultural products, which are available, in most cases at lower cost."

                  U.S. Agriculture Secretary John Block, 1986
The rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) cemented the policies of the Structural Adjustment Programs in international treaties that overrode national laws. WTO rules, like the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and the General Agreement on Trade in Services, further consolidated northern control over southern agricultural economies. The global South was forced to strip away genuine protections for smallholders and local producers to open its markets to northern goods while northern markets remained largely protected through a combination of both tariff and non-tariff barriers. Regional free trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA, pushed through by the North, continued trade liberalization, forcing southern farmers out of business and making countries of the South dependent on northern food imports.
 World food aid in 2007 reached its lowest level since 1961 (5.9 million tons), precisely when more people than ever are going hungry. Why? Because when prices are high—and food is unavailable to the poor—food aid decreases. When prices are low—and food is abundant—food aid increases.
Sound backward? That is because food aid responds to grain prices on the international market—not to the food needs of poor countries. When the price of cereals is low, northern countries and transnational grain companies seek to sell their commodities through food aid programs. When the price is high, they prefer to sell their grains on the international market. When more people suffer from hunger, less food aid arrives. Global food aid is dominated by U.S. food aid, whose objective since 1954 has been to "lay the basis for a permanent expansion of our exports of agricultural products with lasting benefits to ourselves and peoples of other lands."
Food banks: canaries in the mineshaft
Prices are up, but just how bad is the food crisis in the United States? The recent trends in the nation's food banks are a good indicator: there is less food available, it is more expensive, and the lines outside the food banks are growing.
  Federal support for food banks began during the food crisis of the 1970s as an emergency anti-poverty measure to close what was thought to be a temporary food security gap. In the 1980s, despite a downturn in the economy, the Reagan administration cut support for social safety nets, pushing poor people into the street and forcing food banks to turn to the private sector for donations. Food banks fought hunger by collecting unwanted food from distributors and individual households. Religious institutions, nonprofits, and an army of volunteers set up soup kitchens, food pantries, and food banks, giving rise to a rapidly growing emergency food movement. Between 1980 and 1982, the Salvation Army's food pantry's demand increased 400%.
  As the number of hungry people in the United States has grown, food banks have increasingly taken up the slack where government food stamps and federal school and nutrition programs leave off. Today, the nation's largest food bank, Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest), distributes two billion pounds of food annually to 200 national food banks.
  A survey done by Feeding America in 2008 revealed that 99% of food banks have witnessed a significant increase in the number of people served since last year. Though the demand for food has increased, food stocks are down. USDA surplus has declined by $200 million and local food donations are down nationally about 9%. (The USDA distributes surplus when stocks are high or commodities prices fall below a certain level. Like international food aid, they respond to the needs of the grain market first, tending to decrease distribution when food is most needed and increase it when it is less needed.) The Food Bank Association of New York state reports that USDA commodities are down 60% this year, a decline of 67 million pounds of food. Because many food banks across the nation rely heavily on government surplus, the decline in USDA bonus commodities has pressured them to find alternative suppliers and sources of food. Many food banks are making substitutions for traditional sources of protein and dairy, and others are reorganizing their operating structures.
  The California Association of Food Banks asserts that food banks are at the "beginning of a crisis." The concerns of food banks in California are not isolated; strain and worry resounds throughout the food bank community, as they cope with the food crisis. Food Banks are also suffering due to decreased monetary donations from middle class Americans who are tightening their belts in response to the national financial crunch, and decreased food donations from food corporations due to the emergence of lucrative "secondary markets" (e.g., Big Lots, Dollar Tree, Grocery Outlet).
  Food crises and farm crises are never far apart. In the 1970s, the government had been managing grain supply and market fluctuations by maintaining national reserves and paying farmers to idle their land. But when oil shortages and inflation pushed up food prices—provoking widespread hunger abroad—then U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz told U.S. farmers to save the world from hunger by planting "fence row to fence row" and putting their entire harvest on the market. Policies that curbed overproduction and protected farmers from price swings were replaced by ones that encouraged maximum production and low prices.
  When it turned out the hungry people of the world were too poor to buy all the food U.S. farmers produced, prices fell. Secretary Butz then told farmers to "get big or get out." The result was widespread bankruptcy and the painful exodus of over half of our farming families from the countryside. The average farm size went from 200 to 400 acres, reflecting a steady agrarian shift to mega-farms. Large-scale corporate and non-family farms now control 75% of agricultural production.
  Under new agricultural policy, farmers were guaranteed a minimum price for their grain. True to its word, over the next two decades, the government paid out billions of dollars to maintain surpluses of cheap grain. Cheap grain became the bulwark not only of the feedlot explosion, but of U.S. foreign policy as well. This policy was later incorporated into the rules of the WTO that prevented developing countries from raising tariffs to protect their agriculture from cheap foreign imports.
  But membership in the WTO also required the United States to drop its farm subsidies. The 1996 Farm Bill called for a phase-out by 2001. The so-called "Freedom to Farm" Act abandoned our national grain reserves and gutted the positive, New Deal aspects of the U.S. Farm Bill (like price floors to rural economies, conservation, and diversified livestock programs). Counting on unimpeded exports, U.S. farmers borrowed heavily to crank up production—too quickly, as it turned out. When global grain prices crashed, the government responded with billions of dollars in "emergency payments" that they claimed were "not technically" subsidies. In 2002 corn and wheat exports from the United States were priced at 13-43% below the cost of production. It is no surprise that these "non-subsidies" became the foundation of the 2002 Farm Bill.

Food, finance and speculation: bailing our way out of crises?  The main beneficiaries of these policies were large farms, multinational grain traders including Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, the feedlot industries (e.g., Tyson and Smithfield), and chemical-seed companies including Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta.
"The current financial crisis might be mitigated by going to the Federal Reserve Bank and the U.S. government to tap capital reserves. But what happens if we have a devastating drought or other natural or man-made disaster which results in a food crisis in the United States? There are no food reserves! The United States has a Federal Reserve Bank for money, and a Strategic Petroleum Reserve for oil, but absolutely no federal reserve for grain and other emergency foodstuffs."
                                Larry Matlack, American Agricultural Movement
 The District of Columbia (pg 3.)
  • 16 percent of DC residents (approximately one in 6) are food insecure. Among children under the age of 18, the rate of food insecurity climbs to 32 percent (or one in three children). (USDA via Feeding America, 2010).For senior citizens, as many as 40 percent are at risk of hunger. (Hunger in America, Mathematica Policy Research, 2010)
  • 31 percent of children in the District of Columbia live below the federal poverty line, a six percentage point increase since 2007. (US Census, 2011)
  • The average monthly food stamp benefit for individuals in the District is $141.68, and for families, amounts to $251.12. (USDA FNS 2011)
  • For many families, especially those in the lower income Wards 7 and 8, access to supermarkets with nutritious food options is limited. (DC Healthy Corner Store Report, DC Hunger Solutions, 2008)
  • Food stamps last, on average, 2 ½ weeks. 70 percent of clients served report that food purchased with food stamps does not last and they do not have money to buy more (Hunger in America 2010, Mathematica Policy Research) 

Hunger & Poverty Statistics

Although related, food insecurity and poverty are not the same.  Unemployment rather than poverty is a stronger predictor of food insecurity
  • In 2011, 46.2 million people (15.0 percent) were in poverty.
  • In 2011, 9.5 million (11.8 percent) families were in poverty.
  • In 2011, 26.5 million (13.7 percent) of people ages 18-64 were in poverty.
  • In 2011, 16.1 million (22.0 percent) children under the age of 18 were in poverty.
  • In 2011, 3.6 million (9.0 percent) seniors 65 and older were in poverty.
  • The overall Poverty Rate according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure is 16.0%, as compared with the official poverty rate of 15.1%.ii
  • Under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, there are 49.1 million people living in poverty, 2.5 million more than are represented by the official poverty measure (46.2 million).iii
Food Insecurity and Very Low Food Security iv
  • In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children.
  • In 2011, 14.9 percent of households (17.9 million households) were food insecure.
  • In 2011, 5.7 percent of households (6.8 million households) experienced very low food security.
  • In 2011, households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 20.6 percent compared to 12.2percent.
  • In 2011, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (20.6 percent), especially households with children headed by single women (36.8 percent) or single men (24.9 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (25.1 percent) and Hispanic households (26.2 percent).
  • In 2011, 8.8 percent of seniors living alone (1 million households) were food insecure.
  • Food insecurity exists in every county in America, ranging from a low of 5 percent in Steele County, ND to a high of 37 percent in Holmes County, MS.v
Seven states exhibited statistically significant higher household food insecurity rates than the U.S. national average 2009-2011: iv
United States                      14.7%
Mississippi                          19.2%
Texas                                    18.5%
Arkansas                              19.2%
Alabama                               17.4%
Georgia                                 17.4%
Florida                                  16.2%
North Carolina                    17.1%


 The past few years have seen a rapid rise in real food prices – especially, fruit, vegetables and meat. At the same time, we have seen falling real incomes  for low income decile groups. The consequence is that those on low incomes have been changing their diet in response to higher prices. With squeezed real incomes, there has been a greater preference for ‘cheap calories’ and lower demand for ‘more expensive calories’ – such as fruit and vegetables. Some fear the poorest are struggling to buy sufficient food.
Income Decline for Low Income Groups

food poverty

Median income after housing costs fell 12% between 2002-03 and 2010-11 for low income deciles households – while rising in all other income groups.
Food prices have risen 12% in real terms over the last five years taking us back to 1997 in terms of cost of food relative to other goods.
Food Price Inflation Relative to CPI Inflation

food prices

 How did changes in food prices affect demand for different food groups?

food consumption
 Fruit saw the second largest increase in price (35% and also the second largest fall in demand (-25%). This suggests that fruit is highly sensitive to changes in price and income. It is hard to separate the income and price effect because we have seen falling incomes and rising prices at the same time. But, it suggests demand for fruit is price elastic – people don’t see it as a necessity, – they can substitute other types of food. It may also be a ‘luxury good’ – a good with an income elasticity of demand. This means falling incomes cause a bigger percentage fall in demand.
levels of obesity in UK
  • In England in 2010 obesity rates increased in all age bands with adults aged 25-34 showing the largest rise at 36%.
  • Overall, 26% were obese in 2010.

by Duncan Green

 Such hunger is not due to a shortage of food – globally there is enough to go round and if (a big if) we make the right decisions now, we can continue to feed the world despite population growth and climate change. By some estimates, stopping the waste of food after harvest due to poor storage or transport infrastructure, and then in our own kitchens, could free up half of all food grown. The number of overweight and obese people in the world, suffering their own health problems, including a sharp rise in heart disease and diabetes, is roughly equal to the number of hungry people. That highlights one of the underlying causes of hunger – extreme levels of inequality, both within and between countries.

 It requires action at several different levels. At a national level, progressive governments in Brazil and Ghana have shown how to cut hunger sharply, through cash transfers to poor people, raising the minimum wage and investing in smallholder farmers (especially women), who both produce food, and are some of the poorest and hungriest people in the Alice in Wonderland world of a brutally unfair farming system.

 Beyond supporting aid for food and agricultural investment, what else can we in the well-fed countries do? Start by putting our own house in order. The rich countries are part of both the solution and the problem. Europe and America's push to reduce their dependence on imported oil and gas has led them to introduce targets and subsidies for biofuels, but these compete directly with food production, forcing up prices for poor people. Rich country greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change at a pace that outstrips even the most pessimistic projections of the climate modellers, and there are few signs of governments agreeing (still less achieving) the kinds of reductions needed to avoid catastrophic temperature rises that will particularly harm tropical agriculture. We urgently need an international effort to find a way to feed the planet's growing population without destroying its ecosystems, yet current investments are feeble.

 Hunger is both a cause and a symptom of poverty. Damaged bodies and brains are a moral scandal and a tragic waste of economic potential. That hunger exists at all shows the urgency of redistributing income and assets to achieve a fairer world. Providing the additional calories needed by the 13% of the world's population facing hunger would require just 1% of the current global food supply. That that redistribution has not already taken place is truly something to be ashamed of.


  1. Love the top quote.
    Yes Mam.
    When you donate and play ball, all is well.

    When one questions the system, one is a communist, updated to today's terrorist.

  2. I believe that I read a few weeks ago that it would take about $3 trillion to solve the world hunger problem. Isn't that about 10% of what the Fed has spent on bailing out the banksters, and about what it costs to run the "war on terror" for about three years? Maybe there wouldn't be as many terrorists in the world if that money were spent on solving the problem through love and kindness rather than from the business end of a gun. They can even put the US flag on the food boxes if it makes them feel better about it.

    1. hey T., there 'was' a window we could have got ontop of it but its a non-subject these days as hunger & water security are pretty much seen as by products of the globe in recession(s).

      from 2008
      What would it really cost to end global hunger? The United Nations estimates that it would take at least $30 billion per year to solve the food crisis, mainly by boosting agricultural productivity in the developing world. Over the decade that it would take to make sustainable improvements in the lives of the 862 million undernourished people, that amounts to $300 billion.

      We're speeding backwards. Consider the virus etc. outbreaks coming from the malnutrition thanks to speculators gaming droughts etc. I'll be covering Markets & Hunger for the 4th course...could take multiple courses for that one:-/


    2. I don't think it's too late. $300 billion is a pittance in comparison to the amount of wasteful spending and bailout money and CDSs and.....

    3. Agree its a pittance but not in an environment where PROFITS GO BEFORE PEOPLE and PEOPLE REAP ALL LOSSES.

  3. Problem.
    It would be a reverse 99%.
    Corruption would eat up 99%, while the starving people would get 1%.

    Food stamps, a government issued block of cheese along with a liquor store on every corner and a ghetto flooded with
    drugs has been the capitalist opiate for the poor.

    1. Yes, that actually has been a problem. Food aid is sent, but is intercepted along the way, often by local warlords that take what they want and sell the rest to the people who were supposed to be getting it as aid.

      Maybe if the US is so hot to continue to prove how strong the military is maybe they could use that show of force getting the goods to where they need to go.

      I've go an idea maybe instead of taking the USS Kennedy out of commission and cutting her up for scrap they could retrofit her into a floating humanitarian aid ship. Eight nuclear reactors, enough to power a small city, plenty of hospital beds and storage for food and supplies, especially after all the weaponry is removed. Turning swords into plowshares. Why waste resources?

      Sorry, I lost my head for a moment there. Please forgive my transgression. No money in improving the lot of the human race.


    2. The punishment is capital
      for those who lack in capital
      because a public defender
      can't remember the last time
      that a brother wasn't treated like an animal


  4. Dunk your head in ice cold water for 5 minutes.
    Strangle yourself till gasping for air is a necessity.
    Slap and punch yourself in the face till you are black and blue.

    This is your punishment for your one minute of sanity, and compassion.
    The state will have none of it.
    And don't forget it, or else.

  5. Wait wait.
    I sense you are already questioning me.
    Dissent will not be tolerated.
    Now rinse and repeat.

  6. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/social-issues/poor-kids/what-does-poverty-mean-to-children/

    it airs tonight.

    1. ive got it scheduled for tonight...last night watched the 'Dust Bowl'...enlightening even after the books ive read

      thanks an pay attention to that rinse water, it KABOOMS