|World food crisis especially impacts the poor|
Juana Arroyo cooks food in El Bananal, Argentina,
while her grandchild watches. Rising food prices and poor harvests are
creating a global food crisis that is most impacting the poorest of the
A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey, Church World Service.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
July 15, 2008
The skyrocketing cost of rice is affecting how Stop Hunger Now and other relief organizations do their work.
Rice is the main component of the nutritious meal packages dispensed
worldwide by the group, which is based in Raleigh, N.C., and led by the
Rev. Ray Buchanan, a United Methodist pastor. "It (the cost) is having
an absolutely direct impact on what we’re going to do," Buchanan said.
Schoolchildren in Ibo Beach, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, eat food
provided by Stop Hunger Now. A UMNS photo courtesy of Stop Hunger Now.
As a result, Stop Hunger Now may have to reduce its goal to package 5.5
million meals during 2008 or rely on more donations from volunteers who
put together the meals, he added.
Jeffrey D. Sachs, the well-known economist and special adviser to U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, has described the worldwide food
situation as "the worst crisis of its kind in more than 30 years,"
according to The New York Times.
And those affected most by the crisis are the poorest of the poor,
according to June Kim, who monitors hunger-related projects for the
United Methodist Committee on Relief. "A lot of people living on $2 a
day are now having to pay more for food and getting less food," she
Trouble is everywhere, according to news reports:
- In the Horn of Africa, a lack of rain, poor harvests, soaring food prices and inflation, and violence have hampered food aid.
- In Haiti, where the cost of beans, corn and rice has
skyrocketed, the very poor are literally eating mud patties made out of
mud, oil and sugar.
- In Australia, a six-year drought has nearly destroyed the country's huge rice industry, reducing the rice crop by 98 percent.
- In the Philippines, the government has distributed monthly
cash subsidies and "rice passes" in an effort to deal with food
Many say the crisis has arisen from a "perfect storm" of rising oil prices, climate change and natural disasters.
UMCOR finds itself responding to more than just specific regional
problems related to food, such as drought in sub-Saharan Africa or
floods in Mozambique, according to the Rev. Sam Dixon, chief executive.
"It’s not localized, as it often has been in the past," he explained.
The Rev. David Beckmann of Bread for the World says that more than talk is needed
to solve the world’s food crisis.
A UMNS photo by Giulia Muir, FAO.
Whether because of political instability, crop loss because of a natural
disaster, or the increased consumption of imported food in more
countries, "there are too many factors to address with one strategy,"
The change in eating patterns has had an impact because of an increase
in average income in places such as India, China and other parts of
Asia. "People who are moving out of poverty eat better and they eat
higher on the food chain," Buchanan explained. "All that requires
enormous inputs of grain."
At the same time, in the United States alone, "a third of all the corn
being produced is now going to biofuels rather than human or animal
consumption," Buchanan said. The push for biofuels such as ethanol has
occurred as the United States tries to reduce its dependence upon oil
The amount of grain available this year also is in question. U.S.
harvests of corn and soybeans are being threatened by rain and flooding,
while Australian wheat farmers are coping with drought.
Those with nothing left to lose can become desperate, as shown by the
food riots and demonstrations last spring in Haiti, Egypt, Yemen,
Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Thailand, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, the
Philippines and even Italy.
"It’s not just an issue of food," Buchanan said. "It’s an issue of
global security. Global leaders are understanding that this is almost
like a tipping point. Right now there are at least 33 countries around
the world that are politically unstable … by food insecurity."
The current crisis does seem to have a broader and more dangerous
impact, agrees Richard Williams, director of the social and economic
development program for Church World Service. "We feel that it is more
widespread because you hear more and more about food riots in a lot of
places at the same time," he said. "Food riots can destabilize a
With all the factors involved, "there are no quick fixes for this one," Williams added. "This is not a food drop somewhere."
A Ghanaian farmer checks his crop as part of UMCOR's integrated crop and pest management training.
A UMNS photo by June Kim.
In the United States, the Society of St. Andrew, a United
Methodist-related organization, is receiving fewer donations of food
while also fielding more requests for food, according to Marian Kelly,
director of its potato project.
When Kelly talks these days with staff at food banks and soup kitchens,
"I find they’re all talking about the same thing. They don’t have enough
food. Their shelves are all empty."
In addition, transportation "has been one huge, huge drain on our
finances," she said. "We need the food desperately, but then you’ve got
to have the money to move it from the farms to the feeding agencies."
Delegates to the June 3-5 Conference on World Food Security in Rome
declared that governments and financial institutions must provide more
food for the poor and increase agricultural production for the future.
The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, told the
conference that more than talk is needed to solve the crisis.
"Conferences and reports over many years have concluded that it is
feasible to end world hunger," he said. "They have appealed, again and
again, for the necessary political will. This experience has taught us
that conferences and reports are not enough to build the necessary
What is necessary, he said, is to strengthen advocates for the hungry
and poor––ranging from neighborhood groups and religious institutions to
governments, the press and political parties.
The supporters of Bread for the World––including United Methodists and
those from other denominations––"mobilize hundreds of thousands of
constituent contacts with the U.S. Congress each year," Beckmann pointed
out, leading the U.S. government "to more than double its funding for
poverty-focused development assistance during this decade."
In a statement at the conclusion of the Rome conference, the Rev. Samuel
Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya who leads the World Council of Churches,
expressed hope for "timely action" and said the WCC Executive Committee
would address the food crisis at its September meeting.
"Ensuring food security for all of the world's people is among the
greatest challenges facing humanity in the early years of the 21st
century," Kobia’s statement said. "The churches have an essential role
to play, and to be effective we must face the global food crisis
Churches should advocate against the production of biofuels "at the
expense of food production and the environment," the statement added,
and support small farmers and the just distribution of food resources.
"As churches, we must continue to accompany and support sustainable
communities and movements of farmers and landless rural workers."
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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