I am starting to feel a little guilty posting my recipes and pictures of my food online without acknowledging the millions of people in the world right now that are currenly hungry. More than hungry - starving. Right now, the world is in a food crisis. Its not just doomsday talk either - the price of staple crops like rice, wheat, and corn have more than doubled in the past year (rice has more than doubled in the past five weeks alone). This is leaving the worlds poorest unable to feed themselves or their children. Not just the families in places like Haiti either (where millions are literally dying of starvation) - prices of food right here at home are causing children in our own communities to be malnourished and underfed.
The problem is just beginning however - prices of these crops are still rising. And as our critical fossil fuels become more and more expensive - and more and more scarce - our industrial produced food will also get more expensive and more scarce. We in the United States (and other rich countries) have a unique opportunity to help the people suffering the most now, as well as to stop the trend that is causing the world's food supply to become scarce.
First an foremost, we can use our resources to help the worlds poorest. Even small amounts of money to us can buy rice and livestock to feed entire families. Oxfam International is leading the way in programs to provide food for those in crisis. At Heifer International you can donate livestock, crops, honey bees and other gifts that not only provide nourishment but also provide an income to poor families in rural countries.
But one of the most significant things we can do is make small changes in our lifestyle and eating habits. For some time we have been living an unsunstainable lifestyle in the United States - especially with regards to how we eat. And other people pay the price for our over-consumption. Here are just few tips on easy changes we can make in your eating and shopping habits that will help us be better neighbors to the world and better stewards of the earth.
- Buy Locally. I love bananas more than just about anyone - but fossil fuels are shipping those bananas from thousands of miles away, even the organic ones. In order to ship many of the products that come from across the country or across the planet, they also are grown using petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides and are heavily processed and packeged to arrive 'fresh'. This further wastes our dwindling fossil fuels as well as pollutes the soil, air and ground water of countries where some of the poorest live. I know many of you reading this live in places (cough -california-cough) where it is easy to use entirely local produce and dairy. Look at the labels next time you are shopping and try to buy items that were produced within a 500 mile radius.
- Eat in Season. One of the biggest reasons we get food shipped from all over the world is because we are trying to eat foods that are not currently in season and so are not being grown in the region. A quick internet search can find you lots of resources to help you know what is in season when
- To go help with number 1 and 2 - try and shop at your local Farmers Markets or use a Farm Co-Op for your produce. Check out Localharvest.org or find ones near you. Often it makes your shopping and meal planning even easier - you just go pick up your box of locally grown, in season produce and then you can plan accordingly. Bonus is that is also tastes much much better.
- Eat less meat! This is the single best thing you can do to help (and includes fish, much of which is farm raised). The amount of grain and water to feed the animals, fossil fuels to process their flesh in large factories, fossil fuels to ship them across the country, to keep the cold - it is all incredibly wasteful. And it is one of the primary factors in the rising cost of staple crops. We in the US eat much more than our fair share of meat, and use up more than our fair share of oil, grain, and water to raise those animals. Try and start by cutting down to once or twice a week. You may find it difficult to plan meals at first but trust me, you won't miss it and before long you will be eating meat once or twice a month. This can really help you lower cholesterol and lose weight also, not to mention save you money, so consider that a bonus.
- Cut out High Fructose Corn Syrup. Not only is it horrible for you, it takes an enormous amount of the worlds corn and drives up the prices of that corn. This is actually one of the harder things to do as this nasty little substance is hiding in everything. Good news is, people are getting wise to it so companies are starting to make products without it. So start reading the labels - especially of your favorite junk foods, cereals, sodas and juices.
- Try making it from scratch. So much of what we eat and cook uses lots of processed and packaged items that we can easily make on our own. I recently swore off of store bought salsa - I realized making my own is super duper easy and tastes way better. And that store bought stuff? Its full of High Fructose Corn Syrup. There a loads of products like this - we buy for convenience but don't really need to - try buying dehydrated beans instead of canned (I am working on this one), making your own pasta sauce, salad dressing, chicken broth etc. All of those products are made in plants using staple crops and oil that is driving up food prices world wide. And they don't even taste good!
- Don't jump on the biofuel bandwagon - the rapid adoption of biofuels in much of the world is a main contributor to the rising costs of corn, especially.
- Plant a garden. Try growing some of your own vegetables or herbs (its is my goal to create a small salsa garden). This is something that is healthy, good for the earth, and can be really fun. Some old friends of mine from high school started an incredibly cool blog called Backyard Farming that is full of lots of cool tips and how-tos on growing food, raising chickens, and lots of other cool stuff right in your own backyard. There are lots of other resources like this out there on teh internets.
I am going to try and do better on all of these things, I hope you will try to!