Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Food, The Resource We Take For Granted

Today I went grocery shopping with my family.  Just an everyday ordinary event that middle class western women do daily. I walked through the aisles filling my cart, not thinking much about this cost of the items.  My goal was to pack my cart with as many healthy items that I could trick the boys, Mayhem and Destruction into eating.  Other than a brief negotiation in cereal aisle regarding which cereals would make the final cut, it was a pretty uneventful trip.  Though we try to disturb gender as much as possible in our household, I must admit that when it comes to feeding my family the responsibility largely falls to me.  As a woman and a mother it is something that I have fallen into without much thought, or planning.

My situation is not unique.  As part of our nurturing and  caregiving roles women world wide take on this responsibility.  Where we differ is in terms of privilege. When I walk into a grocery store, it is almost like a food wonderland.  The choices are endless, and I am only limited by the range of my wallet.  Even if I were a poor western woman I would still be greeted with more choices than the women that live in Burkina Faso.  For these women the struggle to feed their children has meant that many of them are suffering from malnutrition as they go without so that their children may have more.  Burkina Faso ranks 176th out of 177 on the U.N. Human Development Index. According to CIDA ( The Canadian International Development Agency) 46.4 percent of the population lives under the poverty line.

"It's a cultural thing," Hervé Kone, director of a human rights group in Burkina Faso, said. "When  kids are hungry, they go to their mother, not their father. And when there is less food, women are the first to eat less."

A study by Catholic Relief Services revealed "many people in Burkina Faso spend 75 percent or more of their income on food, and pregnant women and young mothers sacrifice medical care while some are turning to prostitution to pay for food."  The cost of six pounds of cornmeal has risen from 75 cents to $1.50. A kilogram -- 2.2 pounds -- of rice cost 60 cents last year and costs a little more than $1 now. Other basics such as salt and cooking oil have also doubled in priced.  With an average fertility rate of 6.6 children per woman, resources are stretched to the point where families are hard pressed to provide the most basic necessities

I cannot imagine a life where daily I had to worry about whether or not I could feed my children.  As a western woman I have tried to ingrain a respect for the importance of  food to my children, but I know that nothing teaches that lesson like hunger.  We carelessly throw around the word starving to describe hunger, but few western residents know what it really means to live on a bowl of watery cornmeal for a day.  Even for the most economically deprived amongst us a nutritionally balanced meal is accessible at a soup kitchen.  Though we are living in an unacknowledged recession, western citizens daily live with privileges that third world citizens can only dream of. 

Despite the severity of the food crises globally, it is a story that receives very little attention from our media,  instead we are inundated with stories about Brittany Spears, or the overblown political drama that has become the American election.  We have become blind to the suffering of others as we continue to use them as neo-colonies to provide for our greedy commercialized lifestyle. There is a pervasive feeling of entitlement despite the fact that we are humans, occupying the same small blue planet. 

I am just a woman with a small blog, of little significance really.  On my own  the small changes that I have made are not enough to undue the inequality that plagues our planet, however I will not allow that fact to stop me from discussing the issues that really matter in this life.  Each person that reads this blog has the opportunity to make small changes and pass information on to others.  Together we cumulatively can help to bring order to disorder.  There is a cost for the relative luxury that we live in, and the people that reside in Burkina Faso are paying it. 

Stop wasting food, don't put more on your plate that you can eat.  Write your representatives and encourage the end of unfair trade agreements that are impoverishing the third world.  Purchase food locally as much as possible and look for fair trade items to buy.  Remember that just because something is used does not mean that it has outlived its usefulness.  Small political acts daily make a difference, and it shows that not only do you care about the women of Burkina Faso you care about the environment that you are leaving your children with. It is time to reorder our sense of priorities.  What matters are the necessities in life, food, clothing and shelter...everything else is just what we have been taught to value.  As the givers of life women must take a stand.  We cannot and should not stand idly by while the fruit of our wombs withers and dies. 


3 comments:

Delilah said...

We take so much for granted in our middle class lives. It is hard to fathom what you have described even though by now most of us are mentally calculating our way through the grocery store because our budgets will not allow some of the things we could have just a year ago.

Waste not, want not is an adage I do my best to live by, especially when it comes to food. It is amazing what the left over stuff in the fridge can make when you throw it all together! I have no tolerance for buying more than is needed and then wasting half of it.

Larry Geater said...

You are one famine away from having to wory about it yourself. Our last one was in the 1930's and we like to think it cannot happen because we have not seen it in our lifetimes but this is a historical anomoly that cannot last forever. Famine happens. If ther is not one in your lifetime then you are the exception rather than the rule in human history. I certainly am not counting on being that exception.

dem said...

"Stop wasting food, don't put more on your plate that you can eat."

Won't change anything. North America produces so much food that it can feed the entire planet. Most of it gets destroyed and is never even used. Farms destroy excess food that is not bought. Stores constantly faze out old food and replace it with newer food (think expired milk). You eating less will just mean less gets produced or more will be destroyed. Does not mean that it will find its way to those without.

"Purchase food locally as much as possible and look for fair trade items to buy."

Local farms don't really help those without food. They are usually more expensive (due to lack of economies of scale) and don't have the distribution methods that would be needed.