Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, recently told a blog on city issues that hunger is growing, food supplies are short and the situation in general is “miserable.”
“Hunger today is not people starving in the streets, but it’s people choosing between food and rent,” he told The Awl “It’s parents going without food to feed their children, and the greatest irony of all is that people are buying cheaper food that is less nutritious and more filling…”
“There are 1.4 million New Yorkers who can’t afford enough food,” he said.
Civic leaders, he said, need to figure out “ways to keep family farmers on the land, how to make food more available, how to allow people to earn a living.”
New York is not alone. There have been food shortages recently in Japan and Australia, both of which were slammed by earthquakes and had their supply chains disrupted. But there also have been shortages in Pakistan and Kenya. In addition, officials are worried China is headed toward food shortages, and virtually around the globe food prices are on a sharp upward surge, a signal that either demand or supply is changing dramatically.
Forbes reported just weeks ago that the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division warns the global population is expected to grow from the 6.1 billion of 2000 to 8.9 billion in 2050, and that means “the demand for food globally is going nowhere but up.”
Forbes quoted Joesette Sheeran of the U.N. World Food Program describing the situation as a “silent tsunami” that could push another 100 million people into hunger in coming years.
Those concerns also have been echoed by Bill Heid of Off The Grid News, who told WND in a telephone interview that he has issued a call to action.
He’s released a “Food Shock” analysis that notes reports are coming in about food riots in Tunisia, and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports the food price index jumped 32 percent in the second half of 2010.
The World Bank reports that prices are entering “danger territory,” and 44 million people already have been driven into extreme poverty since the middle of last year.
“Food – or lack of it – fueled dramatic public protests in Egypt in February of 2011. Egyptians were crying out against skyrocketing food prices and the Mubarak government’s lack of response,” the report said. And food inflation is running at 18 percent in India.
The report confirms that people in the U.S., too, will be affected if they are not already feeling the pinch of higher prices for products. And a new approach by manufacturers – the reduction in size of product containers – means consumers buy a similar package but get less.
“In a six-month period from mid-2010 to early 2011, global corn future prices rose from $3.50 to $7 a bushel. Good for corn farmers … bad for cattlemen, dairies and consumers,” the report said.
Heid told WND the trends that are “converging” to inflame problems worldwide.
“There have been crazy weather conditions. Droughts. Drying up of aquifers. Droughts in China,” he told WND.
Further is the surging pressure on corn supplies from the shift to ethanol production. Combine that with rising populations, land being taken out of production because of the cost of fuel for planting and harvesting, and there are bound to be problems.
Governments are not helping, as their efforts to mandate inspections and conformity in the food industry simply drive out small producers, he said.
North Korea, the perennially troubled communist enclave, recently has been warning that many of its 24 million residents will “starve” if they don’t get sufficient food aid into the nation.
Ron Carson, founder of Carson Wealth Management Group, has said that he expects overall food production needs to be increased by 70 percent by 2050.
“To survive and thrive in this century, the world needs food more than it needs iPhones,” he wrote.
Heid, whose report was produced in conjunction with Brian Brawdy, who educates international audiences on the importance of self-reliance, survival and libertarian values, said individuals can address their own needs, as pioneers did, and that simple move would alleviate a large part of the problem.
“While most of us do not possess enough land to grow vast tracts of wheat to feed our families plus export the excess to China,” he wrote, “there is something we can do. One of the most effective ways to insulate ourselves and our families from steadily rising food prices is to grow food for our own household.”
He continued, “The National Gardening Association tracks food prices and garden production. In 2009 they estimated that, on average, a garden produces $600 worth of produce in an average size garden of 600 square feet. This value is increased when you realize that a person needs to earn roughly $800 in order to have $600 left to purchase vegetables … after income taxes, of course.”
He cited one case of a Maine gardener who monitored every expenditure invested in a garden, and the value of the produce. He turned $240 in seeds and supplies into $2,400 in food, Heid’s report said.
Today is not the first time the nation has faced the pressure to produce more and better food, Heid’s report said, citing World War I, when Herbert Hoover was in charge of the U.S. Food Administration.
“Under the National War Garden Commission … the government led a campaign to encourage Americans to grow War Gardens (later the famous Victory Gardens). Home gardening would not only produce more food, but it would do so in a way that wouldn’t tax transportation resources needed for the war effort.
“Growing your own good garden gives you a steady food supply that you can control,” the “Food Shock” report said, “The average American eats just under 2,000 pounds of food per year. Even a relatively small garden of 600 square feet produces about a pound of fresh produce per square [foot], or 600 pounds during a growing season. That represents 30 percent of your total food intake for a year.”
The report cites a Financial Times warning that the balance of influences on food production leaves little room to maneuver.
“We are just one drought or one heavy rain away from a major worldwide catastrophe,” Heid’s report said. “Should another disaster hit India and the United States (something along the lines of the great Dust Bowl in the American Midwest in the 1930s), countries the world over will be scrambling to feed their own populations.”