The Global Food Crisis & You

April 23, 2008 at 6:35 pm 9 comments

basmati_rice  I decided that I was going to do the $30 for 30 days project months ago, so it’s an incredible coincidence to me that just as I began the new became dominated by the global food crisis. For those of you unfamiliar with this story, a terrible confluence of drought, increased global demand for meat, rising biofuel production, rapidly rising fuel prices, and political instability have led to huge increases in the cost of food worldwide. As an example, in the last year, the wholesale price of rice has more than doubled globally.

This is a serious problem on a number of levels. For one, more people than ever throughout the globe – especially in developing countries – are at risk of starvation. For the 1,000,000,000 people on this planet living on $1 per day or less (now you know where that food budget comes from), a small cup of rice can now cost their entire income. Aid organizations are struggling to buy enough food with their limited budgets and have had to cut back on food aid in many places. These shortages particularly affect children not only in the present, but for the long term. People who have suffered from malnutrition as children have lifelong gaps in health and mental development*. In short, a food crisis now becomes a human capital crisis in 20 years.

At the risk of being even more dour I won’t talk about food riots and political instability stemming from hunger and its resulting anger.

Ok, enough about these global problems. This project, at its heart, is about the small things that we can do to make a difference in this world. Like many global problems, one individual’s actions CAN make an impact on the global food crisis. Here are a few small actions you can take to decrease your impact on the global food system.

What You Can Do

  1. Eat fewer cows. It takes about 20 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. If that grain was fed directly to humans, there would be no food shortage. I know it’s not practical for most people to give up meat entirely, so I suggest having several meatless meals per week. Breakfast is an easy place to start. If that is still too difficult, shop around for grass fed beef, which is available in many markets throughout West Michigan. As a bonus, cattle production is responsible for 18% of global Carbon Dioxide emission. By cutting down on beef, you could reduce your carbon footprint as much as if you switched to a hybrid car.
  2. Eat more local foods. On average, each item on an American’s dinner plate has traveled 1500 miles to get there. In West Michigan we have access to a huge variety of fruits, veggies, dairy and meat all grown within 100 miles or less. This is not the best time of year to shop for most of the produce from this region, but it is a great time to start researching sources. Here is a list of farmers’ markets in the area. The Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council publishes a Local Food Guide that I’ve found very helpful. For even more information, check Local Harvest. Also, feel free to list your local food sources in the comments section.
  3. Grow your own. My post on home and community gardening shares lots of tips for starting to produce some of your own food. Unless you have a LOT of land, you probably aren’t going to grow grain, but you can definitely supplement your diet and incorporate the most local food source of all into your dinner plans.

I know this post is a little more abstract than rest of this project, but I think this is a great example of how local actions really can have a global impact.

*Referenced here:

Photo by Cris DeRaud.


Entry filed under: Big Issues, Local Food. Tags: , , .

You Can Be a Gardener! I’m Halfway There! A Week 2 Update

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. bigbinder  |  April 23, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Abstract is good. This is a complex issue – food deals with culture and that makes it difficult to sift out.

    I thought about your project today when I read that Sam’s Club and Costco were ‘rationing’ rice sales to their customers.

  • 2. Elsie  |  April 23, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    Great posts! I know this is subjective, based on what people like to eat, but I wonder what is the most cost effective home garden to grow? I am debating what I want to plant this year and one thing I keep asking myself is “What do I want to buy at the farmer’s market vs. what to I want to grow myself?” Have you ever come across any discussions or articles on this?


  • 3. ricebeansmixedgreens  |  April 24, 2008 at 9:04 am

    @bigbinder – It really is a tremendous coincidence that all of these food shortages are happening in the middle of this project. I’m learning how to eat chickweed & daylilies just as people in the developing world are starving from lack of wheat and rice. Crazy stuff.

    @Elsie – I don’t have any specific references for you, but I personally like to grow things that are expensive, hard to find, or yield well in small spaces. For example, cherry/grape tomatoes are kind of spendy and can be turned into sundried tomatoes, which are even more spendy. They also grow extremely well in pots and beds. Herbs of all sorts are another good choice.

    Personally, I’d skip potatoes and other land intensive crops. They’re very cheap in the stores.

  • 4. Emily  |  April 24, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Elsie – It depends on your goals. Michigan potatoes are (currently) cheap and plentiful; but another take on potatoes is that they yield by far the most calories and nutrition per acre. John Jeavons, father of biointensive gardening, says 70% of your garden should grow high carbon calorie crops like grains (feeds you and the soil); 20% should be nutrient-dense things like carrots, beets, and squash, and 10% should be market and salad crops like lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers. For a garden that supplements my diet (as opposed to providing most of my food), I pick things that I eat all the time, that grow easily, and that store well. I’d never have a garden without kale!

  • 5. Ashima  |  April 25, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Elsie – We planted some tomatos a few years ago and had a bounty, and it was on our deck. Container gardening is easy and I think the question you ask about “what to buy and what to build” is a good one. Think to yourself, what is something I’d like to have easy access to on a regular basis. We like basil & rosemary, so we plant it every year in our flower boxes. So, when we spontaneously invite 20 friends over for a cookout, we have those available quickly and inexpensively. So, let the discussion begin!

    Marie – great post. I’ve been thinking a lot about the price of rice, particularly because in my family we eat a lot of rice. I worry about this global food crisis, but even in our own home town we have food pantries running out. It’s crazy. A few weeks ago I saw that food prices have jumped 4% and with the gas prices leaping forward, how are those who can barely make it going to survive. Teaching them to grow their own is a great idea. Supporting Blanford is a perfect thing! Keep up the good work and great posts. You can do it!

  • […] woman trying to raise money for local food bank trying to eat on only $30 a month- no freebies. via Stephanie (Thanks […]

  • 7. Lorena  |  April 30, 2008 at 9:43 am

    I started growing veggies like three years ago and have had mixed results in Mich. weather. I spent $300 putting a water-dripping system in the garden (has about 8 beds) and another bunch in several timmers. I’ve been succesfull with tomatoes (although it looks like it would be more productive and water-friendly to grow those in pots) lettuce, cucumbers and zucchini.
    The two first years I grew plants form seed, but those froze and then I had to buy grown plants. I gave up growing stuff from seed and I’m planning not to do that this year.
    Meijers is gonna sell organic plants now so I’m planning to buy them there. (I do not use artificial fertilizer in the garden bc that kinda’ defeats the purpose of growing you own veggies, doesn’t it?)

  • 8. Brett  |  May 1, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Great post, I’ve expanded my garden 10 fold for this season. And cut the nasty meat habit 2 years ago.

    200 lbs of meat per person consumed annually per the USDA in 2006. Thats just too much fat and heart clogging nastiness for me!

    Well written, me likey 🙂

    Regards from rVa.

    PS. a suggestion to Lorena, have you considered using rainwater collection for your drip irrigation system?

  • 9. Food price rises and Crisis!!!!  |  June 13, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Asian countries being major producer and suppliers to the world are changing their economic pattern to urbanized growth resulting reduced agricultural land and its produce. Urban related economic growth thrusts agricultural land conversion to cities and building to accommodate urban population and industries. Over 20% of farm lands of developing countries have been converted to cities and buildings for the past decades and Over 50% of farmlands of villages (close to cities) got merged with cities. Check my Ariel photo which clearly indicate the steep rise in urbanization.


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