Sunday, April 27, 2008

Feed the World (Or Not)

Much of our media has focused on Sam's club and like bulk food stores' recent decision to "ration" rice. By ration, at least in Sam's club, the restriction was something like only four huge bags of rice per person, per visit. Outside of restaurants, that's not a real story of rationing. Yet I heard at least three different reporters start their stories with "not since WWII has America rationed food . . ."

Yes, by all means, let's focus on this instead of the real story. Remember those millions of people around the world who were starving when you were growing up (eat your peas, people in Country X are starving). Well guess what. They're still starving. And, oh yeah, by the way, the real food shortage - the global one - is adding millions more to the list of people who are starving, or on the cusp because they can't afford the price of bread and grain anymore.
Today's WaPo started a series on the global hunger crisis that I'd recommend to all. Today's story is the New Economics of Hunger. The series will continue this week. Read it. Here's some to get you started.

The food price shock now roiling world markets is destabilizing governments, igniting street riots and threatening to send a new wave of hunger rippling through the world's poorest nations. It is outpacing even the Soviet grain emergency of 1972-75, when world food prices rose 78 percent. By comparison, from the beginning of 2005 to early 2008, prices leapt 80 percent. . . .

People worldwide are coping in different ways. For the 1 billion living on less than a dollar a day, it is a matter of survival. In a mud hut on the Sahara's edge, Manthita Sou, a 43-year-old widow in the Mauritanian desert village of Maghleg, is confronting wheat prices that are up 67 percent on local markets in the past year. Her solution: stop eating bread. Instead, she has downgraded to cheaper foods, such as sorghum, a dark grain widely consumed by the world's poorest people. But sorghum has jumped 20 percent in the past 12 months. Living on the 50 cents a day she earns weaving textiles to support a family of three, her answer has been to cut out breakfast, drink tea for lunch and ration a small serving of soupy sorghum meal for family dinners. "I don't know how long we can survive like this," she said.


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