Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Statistics of Hunger

News of worldwide shortages of food have been rising to the top of the news lately. A
shortage of rice leading to rapid price increases has brought crisis to parts of the world
where people depend on rice as the mainstay of their daily diet. I heard an interview with
an agriculture official in the Philippines on NPR, saying that 80% of the population spends
60% of their income on food, 40% of that on rice. When the price of rice rises, that last number must go up. Then where does that extra money come from?

Here in the United States, I have read, the proportion of an average income spent on food is close to a historical low, even though food prices are rising here too. The increasing cost of gas seems to be causing a much deeper impact. Most of us have the luxury of scaling back our food choices rather than an impossible decision between necessities. Our food stores are still lush with possibilities. So far, wiser buying will get us through.

Elsewhere, the choices are harder, and explanations of why this is happening now are not simple. Some greed, some weather changes, some transportation costs (that oil problem) -- and the overwhelming weight of population growth lead the list.

Reading the Green Fertility blog, a thought provoking post about fertility opens up some questions. Marie brings us a report showing that levels of toxicity in our environment and in our food supply may be contributing to a world-wide reduction in fertility. Is this the swing of the pendulum that will lead to a reduced world population? It is, you might say, food for thought.

Now's the time to remember the famous words of Marie Antoinette -- Let them eat cake (or, so I hear, brioche). Here in the 21st century, make mine chocolate!

ONE SMALL THING YOU CAN DO: Go to and play a vocabulary game. In a few minutes you can improve your mind and make donations or rice through a UN agency. It's sponsored by businesses -- help them help others around the world.
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Unknown said...

There's an article in one of the most recent New Yorker magazines on this topic. It's enough to make you think many, many times about what you eat and how much! Thanks for bringing it up, Susan!

Susan G said...

Another thought provoking source is "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats" by Peter Manzel. Time Magazine posted some of the photos online, in 2007.

Garden Lily said...

Thanks for the link to, it is very addictive, and a great way to improve vocabulary for a good cause - I contributed 5,000 grains of rice tonight! :-)