Food is a necessity
“In a winter’s chill or a summer’s heat, a farmer works so the world can eat.”
— Author unknown
Food is a necessity. Yet every night, about 10% of the world’s population (more than 811 million people) go to bed hungry. Another 350 million people around the globe are food insecure.
When I was a teenager in the 1970s, books like “The Population Bomb” and “Diet for a Small Planet” predicted food shortages. But today, even with the population doubling from 4 billion in 1974 to 8 billion in 2022, food production is very efficient. Our farmers produce plenty of food. The biggest issues contributing to food insecurity are geopolitical conflicts and climate change.
In her memoir, “Good in the Midst of Evil,” my mom describes the deliberate starvation of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto by Nazis: “Entire families were first thin skeletons, then bloated and puffy from hunger, their legs and arms covered with open, ugly, ulcerated sores. This was the last stage before death from starvation.”
Little has changed. Today, wars are the biggest drivers of famine. Authoritarian governments deliberately starve some of their citizens. Each year, in places like Somalia, Yemen, Ethiopia and South Sudan, more than a million children die from acute malnutrition. The CEO of Compassion International, Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado explains: “Conflict tears families, communities, infrastructures, food systems and entire regions apart.”
Case in point is the war in Ukraine, which has prevented the flow of food from that country’s fertile fields, making many nations vulnerable to food shortages. Before the current conflict, Ukraine was one of the top three world exporters of wheat, corn, rapeseed (used to make canola oil), sunflower seeds, and sunflower oil. Ukraine and Russia supplied almost one-third of the world’s wheat, as well as much of the barley and corn, feeding billions around the globe. Ukrainian exports have fallen prey to Russian blockades. Sanctions on Russia have contributed to the rising cost of wheat, fertilizer and fuel, since Russia and Belarus are key producers of potash, an important ingredient in fertilizer.
Extreme weather events caused by climate change also disrupt the availability of food. Hurricanes and droughts contribute to shrinking harvests, making food prices rise. This is especially true in the Horn of Africa, where there has been a severe lack of rain for the last three years.
Modern food production is efficient, and there is enough food to nourish everyone around the world. The main factor in ensuring adequate food supply is improving availability and access to food, especially in areas of conflict.
One of the organizations devoted to providing food in areas of conflict and disaster is World Central Kitchen (WCK). This nonprofit has been in the news lately due to their efforts in Ukraine. They were also involved in providing food following Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria in 2021. In the U.S., the organization helped in Texas during Hurricane Harvey and in California during the Ventura Fire. WCK has organized local chefs and volunteers. Its founder, Jose Andres, says “we just started cooking.”
Of course, there are many other nonprofits and NGOs helping provide food during times of crisis. Some that come to mind are the Red Cross, Heifer International, Church World Service CROP Hunger Walk, and World Vision.
Locally, interfaith organizations provide free meals and food cupboards. I’m fortunate to be able to purchase food, but also thankful that if I wasn’t, there are places I would be able to obtain it.
Consider supporting one of the charities that helps feed the hungry in times of crisis.
Here are two recipes to make on a low budget. The muffins don’t use wheat, but oats and corn. Beans, lentils and corn are inexpensive sources of protein. My Mom talks of the bean soup — made with whatever vegetables were available — that offered sustenance during wartime.
Oat and Corn Muffins
(This recipe is based on one from “Recipes for Rationing: American Kitchens During Shortages Past,” tinyurl.com/ycn5mv7m.)
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon liquid fat (cooking oil, melted butter, melted lard)
1 tablespoon (or more) maple syrup or brown sugar, optional
1 cup corn flour or cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats (prefer old-fashioned)
Optional ingredients: 1/2 cup or a little more fresh or dried fruit or vegetables – like diced apple, shredded carrots, raisins, etc.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Line muffin tins with paper liners, or spray with cooking spray or grease.
In large bowl, beat eggs. Beat in milk, fat, and maple syrup, if using.
In a smaller bowl, mix together the corn flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir into the liquid ingredients.
Stir in oats and fruit, if using.
Transfer by tablespoons into prepared muffin cups.
Bake about 25 minutes, or until brown on top and toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Mom’s Bean and Potato Chowder
1 cup dry beans, such as Great Northern, pinto or pea beans (note: dry beans are cheaper than canned beans)
1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
A few grains of allspice
Vegetables: 1 small carrot, 1 small parsnip, 1 small leek or onion, 1 celery stalk, 1/4 turnip or a few leaves of cabbage
4 potatoes, cut up
1 clove of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh marjoram and fresh parsley, for garnish
1/2 cup tomato sauce or diced cooked tomatoes, optional
Soak beans overnight in 1 quart of water. Or, bring to a boil in the morning, cook 3-5 minutes, turn off heat, and let sit for an hour or longer. Drain.
Place beans, broth, and seasonings (bay leaf and allspice) in soup kettle. Cook about 20 minutes or longer. Chop vegetables and potatoes. Add the vegetables and potatoes and cook until vegetables are desired consistency, about 20 more minutes.
Mash garlic with salt, tomato sauce or tomatoes, (if using) and fresh herbs. Cook about 5 minutes to blend flavors; taste and adjust seasonings.
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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached by email at email@example.com. Twitter: @yvonawrites.