COMMON ASSUMPTION: There is not enough food to feed everyone.
Many people believe that scarcity is the cause of hunger. This
lesson asks students to investigate the assumption that hunger persists because
there is not enough food.
Diet Diary introduces the concepts of calories, proteins, and
malnutrition by having the students examine their own diet and learn about the
diets of people who do not get enough to eat.
How Much Food Is There? asks students to investigate whether
there really is a shortage of food in the world and to think about why food is
not getting to hungry people.
Where Does the Food Go? takes a deeper look at ways the global
food system moves food away from areas where people are hungry, by studying the
lives of some people who produce food. In this activity, students will use
graphics, artwork, or writing to explain and understand why people who grow food
Hunger in the Midst of Plenty introduces hunger in the United
States through three stories about people who are hungry. Playwriting, peer
teaching, and panel discussions are used to help students develop their ideas
about why people in industrialized countries go hungry.
Is scarcity the problem
BACKGROUND FOR THE TEACHER
The world food supply is best described as abundant, not scarce.
In the last twenty-five years, food production has grown at a rate 16 percent
greater than population growth. Farmers in many parts of the world are faced
with declining prices due to crop surpluses. Food spoils while waiting to be
sold for higher prices.
United Nations statistics show that enough grain is currently
grown worldwide to provide every person on earth with 3,600 calories per day
(adult average daily requirements fall between 2,000 and 2,700) and ample
protein. This does not even include the added calories and protein from the
great variety of nongrain foods that are grown.
More startling, enough food is grown even in many countries
where a high percentage of the population goes hungry. Bangladesh produces
enough in grain alone to provide every person with about 2,000 calories each
day. With some of the world's most fertile agricultural soil, Bangladesh's
potential production is much greater still. Yet the average daily intake of the
poorest third of the population is only 1,500 calories per person, dangerously
below what is needed for a healthy life. Comparing food supply in eleven
countries in 1983, we find that even in those countries regarded as hunger
"basket cases" food production is not the reason why people are receiving less
than 1,500 calories (see bar graph below).
Barraged by images of starving Africans, many people are
surprised to learn that sub-Saharan African countries are actually net exporters
of agricultural commodities. Ethiopia, the African country most associated with
hunger, exported four times as much agricultural produce as it imported in 1983,
according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Grain Production in Calories per
Person per Day (1983)
The story is the same on other continents. In India, home of
more hungry people than any other country in the world, government officials
worry about how to deal with more than 24 million tons of surplus grain - that's
twice as much as all the food aid shipped in the world in 1985. Brazil is the
world's second largest food exporter (after the United States), but it is
estimated that 86 million Brazilians do not get enough to eat.
While the World Bank estimates that over 700 million of the
world's people are hungry, over 40 percent of the grain produced and 40 to 60
percent of the fish caught are fed to livestock. Animals raised on this grain
and fish rarely go to feed the hungry, who are too poor to buy meat. While beef
production in Central America has leapt severalfold since 1960, beef consumption
by local people has declined. Additionally, large amounts of land and other
resources in underdeveloped countries are used for producing coffee, cocoa,
fruits, flowers, and luxury foods for a local minority who can afford them and
for higher-paying consumers in industrialized countries. Poor farmers growing
food for their families are forced onto infertile land or off the land
altogether. The UN's Fifth World Food Survey(1985) points out that rural people,
people who grow food, suffer greater malnutrition than urban people.
To understand that hunger is not caused by scarcity, we need
only look at the United States itself. As many as 20 million Americans don't get
enough to eat. More children live in poverty today than at any other time in
U.S. history. The Physician Task Force on Hunger in America reports that between
1983 and 1984 there was a 65-percent increase in the use of emergency free-food
programs - during the supposed economic recovery. Over half of the recipients
Who would say that people go hungry because of a shortage of
food in the United States? Surely not U.S. farmers who, because of high
production, cannot get good prices for their grain. Nor the U.S. government,
which must store mountains of grain and enough surplus cheese, milk, and butter
to provide every single American with almost fifty pounds.
We cannot assume that people go hungry because there is not
enough food in the world. Only by going beyond this myth of scarcity can we
begin to understand the true causes of hunger.
QUESTIONS TO EXPLORE
1. How much food is produced in the world? Is there enough food
to feed everyone?
2. If there is enough food, why doesn't it get to hungry
3. Are there hungry people in countries that produce large
"surpluses" of food? What is it like to be hungry in a "rich"