How money and a lack of time are starving a billion people

June 19, 2012 — 7 Comments

In Zurich people would rather buy cherries than pick them from a tree in front of their house.

There are many things that keep me up at night. Some of them are things I can change and others I can’t. The things I can change, I start working on, the things I can’t keep the cogs in my head rotating until the early hours of the morning. One of those things is food. Those who know me, know that I love to cook and eat good food and drink great wines. But it’s not the thought of “what’s the next exciting culinary adventure that I’ll go on next” that keeps me up, rather it’s the question of “why is food so undervalued.”

Every year food is getting cheaper. Cheaper you may ask, how can that be? Everything is getting more expensive. But you’re wrong. In comparison to what you earn, food is getting cheaper. “In 1974-2005 food prices on world markets fell by three-quarters in real terms” (The Economist). And according to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, prices on major commodities have again dropped.

Then of course there are the disturbing facts coming from investigative books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and recent article in the Guardian about how modern food is making us fat and leaving us unsatisfied. Read about it here: “Why our food is making us fat”.

Of course there is also the fact that in a world where politicians and others are worried that we can’t feed the world’s population, we could almost feed it twice, but would rather throw away food than give it to the poor (see this Spiegel program (In German)).

The social problem surrounding food was made extremely clear to me today in Zurich. In the garden of the building beside my building stands a cherry tree. Switzerland is great for cherries. I have never seen a tree carry so many cherries before. This evening I harvested an entire 3 liter pot with cherries. Many cherries are now rotting on the tree. I have yet to see any person pick any cherries from this tree and of the 24 flats in the building I am convinced that at least four have purchased baskets of cherries at Coop or Migros for 5 or more francs for a 500g basket. The problem is that we have too much money and not enough time to treat food with the respect it deserves.

All of this said there is only one answer to the modern food crisis. We need to re-educate people about what real food is and start producing as much food as possible ourselves and/or where it will be consumed. Economic trade theory has not taken the externality costs of our food industry into account. In Switzerland the team behind Urban Farmers are on the right path to addressing one of these issues, and the Slow Food movement is working on the education element, but more needs to be done.

The last thought that came to mind today was this: It is amazing how much people will fight to keep what they have, rather than for things they do not, especially when that which they don’t would be much better. For this reason people will protest and complain for cheaper food prices, even if higher prices would mean more people are fed with more nutritious food and those producing it would get a humane and fair price.

We as a society need to stop this insanity.

If you’re wondering why knowing how to cook is important, here’s a simple answer. It will save you money. Save your health and save taxpayers money too.

Lastly watch this documentary about our food production and waste: We Feed the World


7 responses to How money and a lack of time are starving a billion people


    Excellent post – there seem to be more and more of us lately. I love the chart.


    Thank you for thinking about the farmers that produce your food! You have a great perspective and we are hopeful things will change soon! Keeps those cogs turning!


    Thank you! Been trying to explain this and you’ve made it easy. Please may I use your chart in my lectures?

    Berit Kaasen Bjørnholt June 30, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    I love you, too! Thank you so much! 🙂


    It is always wonderful to read that there are more People out there thinking about the Value of Food.


    I agree, we need to re-educate people, also to eat less, don’t waste, go back to growing and cooking your food (ok, growing may be hard in the cities, but as you say, why not pick the cherries???). Re-educate people on how to think again, and it is going to be a big battle against the big food multinationals.

    Thank you for the post

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s