Our experience on No Food Day

WFDGrumbling stomach. Cold fingers. Bad breath. A racing mind. And zero energy.  So why would anyone put themselves through 24 hours of hunger by choice?

Our team at Say No Food Waste gave no second thoughts about joining the No Food Day campaign created by EndingHunger.org  on October 12, 2013. The idea is simple – raise awareness and stand in solidarity with the many individuals that go hungry on a daily basis.

There were a lot of people asking us what this day of hunger would accomplish. That all depends on how one decides to look at this. An individual by himself can’t accomplish much. But what one individual can do is inspire others to become the change they wish to see in the world. Through a ripple effect, others slowly join and what started out as a radical idea becomes a common movement, even a rational idea.

In this blog entry we would like to explain a little about our decision to partake in this campaign and reflect on what we learned. Especially since today we are celebrating World Food Day!

Joining the campaign was simple – to get a taste of a life with no food. Being fortunate enough to buy the food we like (humus, sushi, salads, and more) we wanted to challenge ourselves to live a day in a life of those who are less fortunate.

This is what we experienced. The day started out fine. Although we are big fans of nice breakfasts, going today without any was rare, but for this cause something we were willing to accept. Instead of a regular breakfast we had a nice glass of warm water. Quickly we realized that the trick to not getting hungry is staying busy. The house was cleaned, floors were vacuumed and the groceries were bought.

Things started getting tough during lunch time, when people around began preparing their lunch and smells of delicious food floated in all directions. But with determination even this phase became a thing of the past. At around evening though, at about 7, things got really tough. Suddenly warm cups of water were not enough, the stomach began talking, and all the commercials on TV were about food. Seeing the juicy burgers, circular pizzas and endless hot fries dancing on the screen made the fast really hard. But being so focused on food, it was easy to catch that most of the commercials on-screen were promoting foods that are cheap, fast and really unhealthy. No wonder those who lack money and feel hungry buy things that are affordable, but very unhealthy. Also, fast food is easy to eat and prepare, so those who are running all day hungry have no time to prepare food and instead grab something on the go.

Having completed this challenged, we have a sense of accomplishment! For those wondering whether it was worth joining this 24 hour campaign, the answer is YES! Not only did it show that being hungry sucks! It also showed that living hungry is possible, and maybe that is the biggest problem. Those around us never notice whether we are hungry or not. Fact is, even if you are hungry you continue living your life and even make it as busy as possible to get your mind off hunger. So this problem gets swept under the carpet and is rarely discussed in public. And if you don’t talk or think about a problem, there is no way for it to get addressed and eventually solved.

Today, we are celebrating a day of food and abundance. World Food Day is a complete opposite of No Food Day, but the two go hand in hand. As billions of people have the possibility to put food on the table, billion others spend days running on nothing. While we stood in solidarity with those who campaign for hunger for one day, we can’t forget those who campaign for it on a daily basis. We hope that all of our readers and fans join this campaign in the coming years, and continue to participate if they joined this year. Such campaigns help us become aware of hunger and appreciate the value of food. So please, if you want to support and help those who are hungry in other ways than fasting, remember not to waste food. And if you have too much, always share it with those around you. Together we can make hunger and food waste a thing of the past.

Enjoy the rest of your World Food Day. And as you attend or host dinner parties remember that hunger is a problem we have yet to solve. So don’t be fooled by all the food you see around you, for some eating it is just a dream.

By Hokuma Karimova

A Place at the Table

o-a-place-at-the-table-570_custom-91ecc63205db5013bf502f1bc7a653eb09983583-s6-c10Recently I saw the new documentary on the food situation in America called ¨A Place at the Table¨. Its main message was to show how big the problem of food insecurity is in the USA. It is not a new topic, however any person willing to get an answer to the question, why so many of the richest country citizens every day have to think where the next meal will come from, will want to see it.

I think the moment that hit me most was when Jeff Bridges (Actor and Hunger Activisit) was talking about a movie he produced in 1996 ¨Hidden in America¨. It is a story of a family struggling everyday to get food. As Suzuki’s speech from 1990 still stayed fresh, so did the story told in this movie. And maybe, the situation is even worse.

In 1996 there was about 35 million Americans living below the poverty line. Now, 1 in 7 Americans may be feeling hungry every single day, which accounts for 50 million Americans. It is more than the population of my country, Poland (38 million)!!! Many people think that it is because there is not enough food (an opinion favored by the big agro businesses). On the other hand America is net exporter of food according to FAOSTATS (more than 50% of products made in America are exported) and is the country with one of the highest rates of food waste in the world (approx. 50%). Why is in then that a country with so much income per person a year is on the last place on the ranking: the most food secure country in the OECD?

There is no one right answer. During Nixon´s presidency the US government has initialized many projects and increased the Food Stamps budget, in order to end the problem of hunger forever. And it was working very well. Unfortunately, Regan’s office thought that the government shouldn’t deal with such problems and more space should be left to charities. So they did and now the results are shocking. The statistics show that 1 in 2 children in America will have some experience with hunger and food insecurity.

The problem of food insecurity is obvious. There is also another side of the coin, which is probably even worse for both, the society and the government. Because of the poorly managed food system the poorest Americans cannot afford healthy food. A bag of chips can cost 0.30$, while a pound of apples costs 2.30$. These examples are of course almost unlimited. This is a result of the US Department of Agriculture subsidies policy. 84% of subsidies go for such as produce: corn, cotton, wheat, soy and rice but only 1% is devoted to fruits and vegetables. Because of such policy in the past 20 years prices of processed food went amazingly down and relatively prices of fruits and vegetables went up. That means that an average American is more likely to choose chips over more expensive apples.

You know exactly where this is going. Health issues related to malnutrition, hunger or food insecurity cost the government over $ 165 billion per year, which still is only a fraction of what is spend on military. As a final comment I will pass on a quote by Jeff Bridges: ¨The government wouldn´t like to have their defense issues solved by charity, because they know it doesn´t work that way.¨

References:

1. A Place at the Table – http://www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table

2. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/08/03/the-9-foods-the-us-government-is-paying-you-to-eat.aspx

3. http://faostat.fao.org/site/342/default.aspx

 

Posted by Piotr Wielezynski

Report From Day 4: #Belowtheline

DSCN5373For us the challenge is slowly getting to its end. We know very well that with this we cannot say we had an experience with living below the line of poverty. All we had so far is a slight example of how it might feel to eat on $1.5 a day. And, our experience is only valid for Ecuador.

For us, people who love food in almost any form, its diversity and different tastes the hardest part is the lack of variety; the variety that we were used to in our homes. This is our main reflection and conclusion from the past few days.

People living below the line do not have the opportunity to experience variety and diversity of food. As we know, experiencing new things or tastes is very enriching. We can learn about new cultures, maybe new people and definitely we can explore ourselves.

Of course, poor people rarely have the possibility to create new experiences in many areas of their lives, not just food. We believe it is one of the fundamental advantages that people coming from favored backgrounds have over people below the line. But one is sure – having a meal with fruits and vegetables should be accessible to anyone, not just the rich. And more needs to be done to even out the buying power of the have and have-nots.

In every country there is a significant diversity of food, but from what we have seen, especially in rich countries, healthy food is expensive. The most important reason for it is that the governments subsidize only some type of products, mainly those being produced and processed by big food companies, such as corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat and rice. We believe that everybody should have the right to have access to a higher diversity of food and the subsidies should be divided in a more equal way among different types of food. For example, fruits and vegetables should receive more than 1% of government funds. With small changes to how our food system is funded and governed we can make big and positive changes in the lives of millions of people.

Report from Day 2: #Belowtheline

DSCN5276Second day of Living Below The Line and things start feeling monotone, so you add half of a 10 cent banana to your oatmeal hoping to add some flavor. It works, the oatmeal tastes much better so you eat it all up and drink a cup of water.

By 11 your stomach starts sending you messages that it is hungry…but what can you do? While walking through the city, running work errands you catch a smell of a nearby bakery. The warm breeze carries the delicious smell of bread to you, and you know it was recently taken out of the oven. It is probably still hot and soft, but you can’t stop…you must keep walking.

Then hunger takes over and you give in to the temptation. You go in the store and buy bread, the smallest one you can find with cheese, and there goes another 12 cents. And when you come home for lunch you are satisfied, but feel a little guilty about whether or not you’ll have enough money for dinner.

So instead you focus on what’s at hand – lunch. You cook the pasta, chop the tomatoes and onions and throw them in the pan. There is no more oil though, and all the empty bottles have already been placed upside down to take out the last drops still stuck in the bottle. The pasta is filling and tastes good. You eat, drink water and head back to work.

Then it’s dinnertime. You make it back to a bakery and amongst so many delicious options you must pick only 3 pieces of bread with cheese. But you don’t complain because for better or for worse, at least you’ve got something to eat. You buy the two pieces of bread for 36 cents and then go to a local market to buy some ingredients: cucumber, tomato and onion. At home you chop the ingredients and heat up the bread and sit down to eat. The sandwich is good, but missing important garnishes like olive oil, basil and other flavor adding ingredients.

Things are not so bad though, because you know that in Ecuador you are living for $1.50 a day, but it’s not bad, you are not starving and you know it’s all temporary. Three more days and you’re done. But for some, this is not a game it’s a daily reality. And some of these people live in rich and developed countries where $1.50 is sometimes not enough for one gourmet coffee. That’s when you realize that all these little things that you couldn’t live without, coffee, sushi, orange juice… they are the real luxuries of life and some can’t even afford them.

Report from Day 1: #Belowtheline

fooodOne day down and four to go. Living below the extreme poverty line is not easy, but if you are in Ecuador, it is definitely possible to do. As long as you can get accustomed to eating oatmeal, lots of rice and forget about the olive oil dressing on your sandwiches. Out must also go meat products, those are more costly here.

But with perks such as buying 50 cent oatmeal bag that lasts you for 5 days, and the chance to buy eggs per unit, you can see the money goes a long way. What is also great is that you can walk into a small store and ask the kind lady behind the counter to cut you a piece of cheese for whatever amount of money you have in your hand.

As you can see living on $1.50 per day in Ecuador is not as hard as it sounds for people from more developed countries. Of course, it is much less than the usual $5 budget we have, with which you can even eat out.

The real purpose of our challenge was not only to shed more awareness to the hunger and poverty problem, but also the different buying power your money has in different countries.  Living on $1.50 in America is not the same as living for this amount in Ecuador or even going further to Burkina Faso.

We need to focus more on hunger that exist in our countries, the so-called ´rich´, developed or more politically correct – northern countries. The image we have of hunger is the extremely thin black kid with a bulging belly. Well, if you go to a poor neighborhood in USA you will see that hunger has taken on many diverse shapes. If you continue looking for the stereotypical image of hunger in your country then you will most likely miss the different faces of hunger in your part of the world.

Live Below The Line

GPP_LBL-LogoDo you know what it means to live below the line? Neither do we. But starting this Monday and all the way through Friday we will.

Live Below The Line is a campaign started by two guys from Australia, Rich Fleming and Nick Allardice.  Their challenge was to live on $1.50 a day for 3 weeks. They picked $1.50 because that is the accepted global figure for extreme poverty.  Why would we do join this campaign you ask? Because we as humans can try to understand many things, but the best way we learn is through self-experience.

For 5 days we at Say No To Food Waste will live below the line and get a small glimpse of what it is like to be poor and hungry because the salary you earn isn’t enough to get you through life.

Everyday we will document the food $1.50 can buy us in Macas, Ecuador. Since Ecuador is relatively  cheaper than the US, we know our small amount of money could go a long way. For some though the reality is worse. That’s why we ask that you join us in this challenge and send us photos of what $1.50 could buy you where you currently live.

To learn more about the project click here. To see a great movie on what poverty is and food insecurity is like in one of the richest countries in the world, The United States, watch A Place at the Table.

Together we will see what it is like to be poor and hungry with so much wealth and food around.

Preparing for the Drought

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Did you know that droughts are the leading cause of human death and displacement? Droughts are the worst natural hazard beingfaced by humans as they cause more damage than cyclones, floods and earthquakes combined. Want to know how many countries have a formal national drought policy to address this problem? Answer, just one.

Yes, Australia is the only country in the world that has a policy to help the country plan for a future with drought. The importance of having a policy stems from the fact that while political parties change, a policy is something all members in power must abide by. Without a policy most political parties create plans that change depending on who is in office.

This boils down to one thing, most countries are currently operating on a reactive basis, meaning they wait for a drought to take hold before addressing its side effects. This reaction-based strategy will not be sufficient enough to help prevent or slow down future disasters caused by drought. Especially in our volatile world where thanks to globalisation all countries feel the shock of a neighbour or political ally.

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To address this little glitch, the UN helped organise the High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy in Geneva from March 11-15th. The outcome of this meeting was a lot of idea sharing, urging for action and emphasising the need for  emergency relief plans. In summary, a lot of talk but nothing specific. To view this 3 page Final Declaration click here.

While it is great to see that steps are being taken to address drought and nations are starting to think of drought relief road maps, more proactive steps are necessary. Especially since UN predicts that dry areas will get drier and wet areas will get wetter in our near future, which should cause lots of negative impacts on our global food system. To see all the global areas currently being affected by drought check out the UCL Global Drought Monitor.

Restaurant that gives free food?

gleaners kitchenMaximus Thaler, a Tufts University student, wants to feed people, create a space for art, and bring communities together by opening a new underground restaurant and grocery store – The Gleaners’ Kitchen.

This  place will always have hot coffee, tea and lentil soup. At 6pm they will serve food to those who are hungry at no cost, because as Thaler puts it “food is a fundamental right, and should be shared freely with all”.

But this is not just an idea, it will soon be a reality thanks to the amazing people who supported this project on Kickstarter, a page that allows people to post their projects and receive donations from those who are interested in supporting it.

Such a restaurant and grocery store is a creative way to solving our global food waste and hunger problem. Just consider this fact for a second, an average supermarket throws away $2,300 worth of perfectly edible food every single night. In a country such as the United States where 1 in 6 people face hunger, it seems completely wrong!

To learn more about this project, check out their video. We hope you get inspired!

Hunger is much more than an empty stomach.

As you are reading this text, you know that it is a blog about food waste. Some may think that hunger, besides being related to food doesn’t have much to do with food waste. We, however, believe that hunger is one of the causes of food waste. Maybe not in all cases and definitely not as a direct cause. Most of food waste happens in the developed countries. People buy and throw away food that could have ended in a belly (let’s forget about the huge amounts of food that are being eaten without any serious reason, which has led to an obesity epidemic). It all works just like a stock exchange. When the demand is high the price is going up. It means that people who are struggling for survival with $2 a day have an even more difficult situation.

Many of us have already heard that 1/3 of the whole planet suffers from malnutrition and that it is the cause (direct or indirect) of half of children deaths in developing countries. But this is not only a problem of developing world; in the Unites States 1 in 5 children are also at risk of hunger. (Generations United)

From a blog called “The 40-hour famine” we have learned about a more scientific approach to the problem of hunger. It showed us, which organs actually suffer from malnutrition.

So, hunger affects the:

Mind – “Childhood malnutrition can cause reduced intelligence, anxiety, psychiatric issues and cognitive impairment in the long term.”

Heart – “Hunger causes a decrease in heart rate and oxygen levels, making it that much more difficult to perform any kind of physical activity, let alone labor. To function properly, the heart needs sufficient calcium, iron, protein and Vitamin B.”

Organs – “Intestinal tract, kidneys and livers, all need fiber in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to operate healthily.

Joints and Muscles – ”It doesn’t matter how often a person exercises, if the person isn’t getting sufficient protein, her or his muscles will weaken and shrink.”

Bones – “Without sufficient calcium, a young person’s growth will be stunted for life, possibly forcing her or him to function with fragile bones that easily break as an adult.”

Immune system – “A number of diseases that are rare here but rampant in the developing world are directly caused by deficiencies in basic vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. And, outrageously enough, most can be treated with the mere introduction of those deficient vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. No pharmaceutical research, no vaccination, no drug regimen necessary. In most cases, just the right food in the right amount.”

While writing this text I got to understand why food is so important. Probably it is because I was never really hungry and I take food as pleasure for most of the time. But I was definitely lucky to have parents that fed me well. So here is a message to all of you parents or “gonnabe” parents. Remember to feed your kids well. Well doesn’t mean a lot. Well means: diverse, fresh, colorful, which all leads to healthy. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!!

References:

1. http://40hrfamine.wordpress.com/how-hunger-hurts/

posted by Piotr Wielezynski

New Hunger Report

Generations United published their recent report on Hunger in America. Filled with interesting statistics and visuals, the report hopes to shed light on the growing problem of hunger that millions of Americans face on a daily basis.

Staggering statistics show that “1 in 5 children are hungry, or at risk of hunger” in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. This begs the questions of: “How is this possible?” and “Why isn’t something being done to end this?”

Instead, the current talks of a fiscal cliff in the US government puts programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) under threat of budget cuts. This would leave 3 million of hungry Americans facing this problem all on their own.