LEARNING TO FISH
In the vast assembly room at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, overlooking one of the nation’s premier food banking facilities, Drexton Granberry joyfully came to the end of his speech. He and 25 others were graduating from Chicago’s Community Kitchens (CCK), a 14-week program that teaches culinary skills to unemployed and underemployed adults. One of them was the 1,000th graduate since the program’s beginning in 1998; many of them have gone on to begin careers in the foodservice industry.
Concluding his touching speech, Drexton said, “CCK didn’t just give me a fish, they taught me how to fish.”
I have heard that phrase many times writing about global hunger and poverty. It’s an old chestnut of development practitioners. But this was the only time it brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. For I knew what the graduates had endured, not only in the class but in life. When I was writing for The Wall Street Journal, I followed one of the Chicago classes from start to finish; similar classes were also being taught at a number of food banks across the U.S. Among the students in that class were former inmates and addicts, homeless people, men and women down on their luck and looking for a way back up.
On graduation day in mid-December, the assembly room at the Food Depository, filled with friends and relatives of the students, was bursting with smiles and pride. For some students who hadn’t finished high school, this was their first real graduation day. For many of them, it was their first chance at a real career. More than three-quarters of the graduates from the previous ceremony already had landed jobs in Chicago’s vast foodservice industry.
By Dan Glickman and Randy Russell
This piecie originally appeared on Agri-Pulse.
The U.S. agriculture and food industry is the envy of the world and has achieved a level of success that is unparalleled. Yet, as we saw in the recent Presidential election, a vast divide exists between rural and urban America. Notwithstanding the very strong farm economy, rural America and farm country overwhelmingly supported Mitt Romney by over 20 points, and yet urban America supported President Obama by nearly 25 points. Although deeply divided politically, both urban and rural America are strongly linked in large part due to our safe, affordable, nutritious and abundant food supply. U.S. agriculture has never been more relevant to the economic success of all Americans and for the world than it is today.
Food and agriculture faces even greater opportunity for growth over the next several decades, and will need young, educated, skilled leaders to ensure that growth is realized. In his recent keynote address to the Farm Journal Forum, Secretary Vilsack posed this important question: “How are you going to encourage young people to want to be involved in rural America or farming if you don’t have a proactive message?” Good question. But young Americans seem to have already grasped the enormous potential of this great industry. Food and agriculture departments at colleges and universities around the country are enjoying remarkable job placement rates, and young Americans are enrolling in record numbers. From 2009-2011, the nation’s land grant universities saw enrollment in agriculture and related programs increase by 20% among female undergraduates, and 9% among male undergraduates. Women now outnumber men in undergraduate land grant agriculture programs. Moreover, degrees in agriculture and food sciences are becoming increasingly diverse: engineering, science and technology, finance, communications, nutrition and other fields that offer critical skills and a much needed expertise to power the American agriculture economy. These are similar skills required by the economy as a whole.
As rural America braces for a surge in global demand for food and agricultural products, there is an enormous opportunity to share this story with all Americans. Every American, urban and rural, directly benefits from the vast productive capabilities of U.S. agriculture. Americans spend about 10% of their disposable income on food, the lowest of any industrialized power in the world. Imagine if we spent 30% of our income on food, which is the amount the average Russian spends. More than $1 trillion dollars, out of our total economy of $15 trillion, would be relegated to food expenditures. American consumers, urban and rural, are provided with the safest and most affordable food supply in the world. But there are even broader economic reasons underpinning the importance of our food and agricultural industry. While U.S. agriculture at the farm gate represents less than 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), when combined with transportation, processing and marketing that makes up the food system it rises to over 10% of the GDP. The industry employs 20 million workers and contributed over $137 billion in gross exports and $40 billion to our net trade balance in 2011. Last year American consumers alone spent $550 billion for food products originating on U.S. farms and ranches. The US agriculture and food industry is only slightly smaller than the manufacturing industry (11.5% vs 10% of GDP) and nearly eight times larger than the computer/electronic products industry.
Klaus Kraemer, Ph.D. is the Director of Sight and Life, a non-profit humanitarian nutrition think tank of DSM, which cares about the world’s most vulnerable populations and exists to help improve their nutritional status. Acting as their advocates, Sight and Life guides original nutrition research, disseminates its findings and facilitates dialogue to bring about positive change. Sight and Life is currently celebrating their 100 Years of Vitamins campaign.
You have recently launched a campaign to celebrate 100 Years of Vitamins. How has our knowledge of vitamins and our approach to promoting nutrition changed in the past century?
Before the discovery of vitamins and their naming 100 years ago, people thought all food offered the same sustenance—that a pound of potatoes was the same as a pound of apples. Now we know that is not the case, and that there are 13 different vitamins essential for good health at every stage of the human lifecycle. Our bodies need these vitamins to grow, function, stay healthy and fight disease. Sadly, today one billion people suffer from hunger and do not get enough food, and at least two billion experience “hidden hunger”—they might get enough calories, but they do not get enough of the vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) their bodies need. The signs of vitamin deficiencies are not always visible (hence the name, “hidden hunger”); they include birth defects, anemia, blindness, impaired physical and mental growth, maternal and child death, brittle bones and increased susceptibility to disease. These affect not only health but an individual’s future potential. Vitamin deficiencies commonly occur when populations cannot afford or do not have access to enough diverse nutritious foods (such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, fruit and vegetables). As we connect the dots between optimal nutrition and health, our approach has shifted to promote a world where everyone not only has enough food, but enough of the right foods and sufficient essential vitamins—whether through diet, supplementation or fortification.
Why is it so
important to tackle micronutrient deficiencies to reduce global poverty?
Micronutrient deficiencies prevent children from reaching their full potential as adults; malnutrition, especially during the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, can lead to irreversible physical stunting and cognitive impairment. But children who are well nourished are able to grow, learn and prosper. They achieve more in school, are better able to survive illnesses and tend to earn more as adults. The 2012 Copenhagen Consensus panel of experts ranked providing micronutrients to preschoolers as the single smartest way to allocate global aid dollars, with every $1 spent generating $30 in benefits—an astounding return on investment. Investing in nutrition can also raise a country’s GDP by at least 2 – 3 percent. When children are properly nourished, they can grow up to be healthy and productive, helping to lift their communities—and their countries—out of poverty. The link is clear, and so tackling malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies has to become a global focus if we are to address poverty.
What are some concrete examples of nutritional intervention programs that saved lives and reduced malnutrition?
In a world where almost one billion people are chronically hungry and the current and future state of food security is beset by challenges such as climate change, knowledge and information are powerful. Powerful in terms of understanding the problems, in terms of deriving solutions and in terms of advocating where, how and when decision makers need to act.
A new briefing paper written to complement Sir Gordon Conway's book One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?, presents an array of often unsettling facts and figures that outline the challenges to and opportunities for tackling global food insecurity. One fact, for instance, states that in a survey of 59 sub-Saharan African countries, 33 were classified as highly or moderately highly vulnerable to climate change, a real and growing threat to food production in developing countries.
Facts point to agriculture as being both a victim and culprit of climate change: parts of Africa and India are projected to suffer a 30 percent decline in food production on one hand, while global greenhouse gas emissions generated by the agricultural sector account for 10 percent to 12 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, equalling 5.1 to 6.1 Gigatons of CO2 equivalent in 2005, on the other. Agriculture's contribution to climate change increases to 30 percent when emissions from agricultural fuel use, fertiliser production and land use change are included. Agriculture's share in global GDP, however, is only around 4 percent.
By Dr. Maura O'Neill
Dr. O'Neill is the chief innovation officer and senior counselor to the administrator at USAID.
Barbara’s mother was desperate- there was nothing in the house to feed her children or herself. All that remained was a bag of seed that she’d been planning to sow on her small plot of land. Could the seeds be eaten as food? She could no longer look at her children whose bodies were aching from hunger.
There was one huge risk: the seeds contained potentially lethal pesticides intended to encourage higher yields. As countless mothers have done, she tested the seeds on herself. Barbara and her siblings watched fearfully as their mother ate a handful. Would she die, become ill, or just be fine?
Even if eating the seeds led to survival, there would be no crops to harvest in six months. Would they starve later? Years after this harrowing experience, Barbara palpably captured this moment in her book, Change Me into Zeus's Daughter.
In Alabama that night, nobody got sick. But we must do better by our neighbors in the US and globally.
One billion people suffer from chronic hunger and face terrible choices daily. A billion is a hard word to grasp, but imagine if every man, woman, and child in the largest cities in the US- including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, Atlanta- would never get enough to eat or had a chance to thrive.
Technology and business have recently brought dramatic global improvements in areas like health, agricultural productivity. Through social media, we can harness crowd-sourced wisdom and rapid diffusion networks to imagine a day in our lifetime where families everywhere can take pride in the accomplishments of their healthy children.