Food: It's not for everyoneI need to go to the gym.
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
I need to go to the gym. In fact I try to go at least three times a week and when I’m there I do about 45 minutes of aerobic weightlifting. That’s weightlifting where you go from one exercise to another without stopping to rest. It’s a well-rounded regimen that firms up each muscle group, strengthens your most important muscle, the heart and gives you a near death experience all at the same time.
Lately, because life has been so busy, I’ve been getting there two times a week instead of three, which is putting a crimp on my plans to eliminate 10 pounds of unneeded me. And that’s bad because then I have to deal with my conscience, who happens to be a real jerk.
At any rate, the thought of carrying around a few of extra pounds made me wonder how many other people in the world are also lugging added tonnage. So I looked it up on worldometers.com and guess what? There are a billion hefty people stumbling around on this planet. And oddly enough there are also about a billion undernourished people in the world. Which makes you feel a little guilty doesn’t it? There’s an undernourished me somewhere and he’s undernourished because I’m over nourished. Now that would really give my conscience some ammunition if it was true, but it’s not.
You see, we’ve produced about 3.5 billion tons of food so far this year. By the end of the year we’ll have produced right around 6 billion tons. That’s almost a ton of food for every person on this planet or the equivalent of you eating 22 McDonald’s quarter pound burgers every day for a year. I can’t even eat one quarter pounder much less 22 in a day.
Thus, given the food shortage, I have to conclude that there are a number of grocery stores around the world where the stock boys are taking too many smoke breaks and forgetting to fill the shelves. In fact, I checked it out and there are about 36 undernourished countries and most of them are located in Africa, which is no surprise if you’ve ever channel surfed and seen those little kids with the bloated bellies who look like they’re 11 months pregnant. You’d think we could just fill up a bunch of boats with chow, point them all in the same direction and solve that problem lickety-split, but apparently not.
Because, get this; America gives half of the $4 billion that is given annually to food relief. But by law, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other federal agencies have to buy American-grown food from American conglomerates and ship 75 percent of it on American-flagged vessels. That sounds like a real nice deal for American businesses and the shipping industry and it might be great for everyone else if our business and boat buddies didn’t demand a tidy profit. Because even though you and I give more each year to feed these hungry people, 65 percent of that money is spent on just getting it there while the actual food delivered dropped by 50 percent over the last few years.
And as a side note, in 1996 the World Food Summit set a target to halve the number of undernourished people in the world by the year 2015. But unfortunately its aim is about as good as your average deer hunter shooting from a moving pickup truck racing across a rocky pasture. Because that number actually rose by 24 million by the time 2002 rolled around.
It’s obviously a difficult problem to solve. Or is it? We know where the food is and we know where the starving people are. How complicated can it be? It’d be a whole lot more simple if we could take away the politics, greed, thievery, stupidity, disorganization, droughts and wars that are now factoring into it.
So what do we need to do? Keep giving because if you don’t the problem will be even worse. But you can also hound the politicians into letting federal agencies give cash directly to the on-site agencies who can buy food from suppliers for a fraction of the price. And we’d probably be a whole lot more successful if we propelled this food issue up the priority list a bit, to at least somewhere ahead of the Super Bowl. Because only one sixth of the world’s population watches that game anyway; which just so happens to be about a billion people.
— Holten is the Dickinson State University Foundation’s communications director.