On 16th October, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization commemorates the annual World Food Day as a reminder to us that while some of us have the luxury of pizza/fast food deliveries, drive-thrus, grocery stores just across the street, massive buffet spreads and the high society culture that accompanies gastronomical culture, there are others in the world that barely have a meal a day, are dependent on food aid (which is much less during the economic recession as donor countries give less), and are still praying for rainfall to grow their crops (most of which is not for their own consumption, but for export).
The theme for this year’s World Food Day is “Achieving Food Security in times of Crisis”. It was not too long ago when much of the world faced massive inflation on basic food necessities, such as rice and wheat. The reasons for the sudden food insecurity have been well cited in various media and research institute/think tank resources (click here for a commentary on food insecurity in Southeast Asia).
So what does all this media coverage on food insecurity mean for us?
Perhaps for some, it’s merely a reaction on the lines of “Oh my, these poor people are not having much to eat” and then hitting the town for an all-you-can-eat buffet. Others have voiced their concerns of how the 2008 food crisis has apparently impacted them. When Thailand banned its rice exports in a bid to secure its own food security, chicken rice lovers in Singapore voiced their dissatisfaction with chicken rice cooked with rice imports from Vietnam, as being of lower quality rice.
Clearly, many of us in the developed world have given very little thought of where our food comes from. Clearly, it hasn’t sunk into our minds that much of what we consume, comes from the limited resources and hardwork of farmers in developing countries. And clearly, since all this seems so far from where we are, we prefer to continue with our comfortable lifestyles and demand more and more.
That said, it is also apparent that hunger and poverty still persist as we speak. Clearly,we haven’t bothered to take notice of the poor around us – less fortunate consumers that really do feel the pinch of higher food prices in the markets and producers that feel the pinch of increasing production costs (eg. rising fuel and fertilizer costs).
What can we do about it?
The issue of food security can’t just be left to governments to deal with it, as they have hardly the means of mitigating the forces of demand and supply. Its a complex issue, but lets not discount the power of small deeds, such as:-
- Buying local produce, where possible.
- Avoiding lavish spreads and consuming what you need. I have come to the conclusion that Ramadan buffets are an oxymoron.
- “Simplicity is the best policy”.
- Contributing to charities – financially. There are many out there. Though, this initiative in the US – Skip a Lunch, Feed a Bunch – I find is particularly interesting, especially for Muslims during the fasting month.
- Contributing to charities – with the human touch. In this day and age, people don’t talk to other people enough. Knowing the recipients that appreciate your generosity would only spur you to do more. 4PM’s Ramadan on Wheels is one such initiative that has garnered support since 2000.
With less than 10 days left of Ramadan – a time of reflection, thinking about the needy, and reducing our own consumption – let’s make the holy month all the more worthwhile as a new beginning for gradually minimizing our overall consumption and reducing negative impacts on others and Mother Nature.