This article was originally published by The Mennonite

The food crisis


If we drive our cars less, poor people will have more food. That seems to be the cause and effect relationship that implicates most of us.

Over the past two months, soaring food prices have sparked serious riots in countries like Haiti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Indonesia.

The current global food crisis may get even worse. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary General, says it has the potential to become the worst such crisis in 30 years as those who were once able to buy food face malnutrition and starvation. But the problem is not a lack of food.

“Enough food exists to feed the world’s hungry,” said an April 25 release from Church World Service, “The problem is that much of the world’s poor can’t afford food in their local markets.”

While the world food supply network is complicated, many of the problems can be linked to the increasing use of fuel and its harm to the environment, record prices for petroleum and destabilization that comes from wars fought over oil.

The victims are not only the “Bottom Billion”—the billion poorest people in the world. For an additional 4 billion people, the spike in food prices will now mean they have even less to eat.
Mennonite Central Committee has food security programs in 10 countries that have seen serious food riots this year.

“The increase [in the cost of food],” says an April 25 release from MCC, “is driven in part by the growing demand for food from emerging economies—especially in India and China—increased land use for biofuels, a slump in food production because of drought and floods, and high energy costs for producing and transporting food.”

Mennonites have been thinking about the social justice aspects of food distribution for more than 30 years. Doris Janzen Longacre’s More-with-Less Cookbook hit our church in 1976 to help families “establish a climate of joy and concern for others at mealtime, while improving nutrition and saving money.”

Three years ago, MCC published another cookbook focusing on food justice. Entitled Simply In Season, authors Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert note that the average item of food in the United States and Canada travels more than 1,000 miles before it lands on our tables. To mitigate against high-mileage food, the cookbook illustrates why it is important to eat locally grown food in or near the season it was produced.

What would it mean for Mennonites to change our behaviors in ways that would inject some justice into the food crisis? Some suggestions:

  • Eat organic foods
  • Buy locally grown foods that support local communities
  • Reduce meat and dairy consumption
  • Purchase wild-caught and local seafood
  • Choose whole unprocessed foods
  • Avoid processed and packaged food

The suggestions come from the Take the Cool Food Campaign Pledge at The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about the effect of food choice on global warming and reduce our “FoodPrint.”

We can also address elected officials about public policy issues connected to food. We can get involved in the debate about the use of grains to make fuel for our vehicles. Once hailed as a way toward “oil independence” for our country, the current effect is to raise the cost to feed the chickens and beef that so many people eat.

Each of us can help also by driving our cars less. Walking, riding a bike or taking public transportation reduces the pressure on oil prices. It also reduces pollution, which in turn mitigates against global climate change that is bringing drought to areas that once produced food.

The most direct affect we can have is to make financial contributions to organizations like MCC and Church World Service. “Food security” is a basic need for everyone. Strengthening this security for the increasing billions going hungry is a responsibility each of us must carry.

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