The Right to Food is a basic human right, affirmed by countless civic and faith organizations. The challenge is to affirm that right for the millions of our fellow humans who are unable to exercise their right. Today, October 16, is World Food Day, an unrecognized occasion to explore the reality and the possibilities.
In fact, the reality is that the world produces enough food to feed every person on the planet.
The theme for World Food Day 2015 is “Social protection and agriculture”, a call to underscore the role that social protection plays in reducing chronic food insecurity and poverty by ensuring direct access to food or the means to buy food. Social protection is a viable theme to stimulating agriculture production and local economic activity.
On the one hand, this highlights the essential role of farmers. As any thoughtful person knows, farmers are the key players in the challenge to fight hunger. Farmers are at the center of meeting the challenge to craft concrete remedies that address issues affecting food security and nutrition.
Still, the challenge is to all of us to take a systemic approach to addressing this complex issue. Though absolutely necessary, food shelves are a stop-gap measure, created by good people and caring organizations to deal with the immediate. Though essential, they are pro tem solutions to a greater challenge that must engage a broader network of concern.
We need to look to the complexity of today’s agriculture infrastructure. We need to see where ag funds are going, what research is initiated, who is calling the shots related to research, support for overall development of the agriculture sector. The possibilities for the financial growth of the ag industry must be matched with the reality of hungry people.
At the same time, at the local level, we need to link essential interim life services with comprehensive approaches to meeting human needs. Families in need of food need a mix of support, not always integrated at the delivery level.
Those who are passionate about the immediate needs of families must be more attuned to and concerned with the political factors that ultimately influence the lives of the individuals and families about whom they care.
These are the voices that must be heard in the ongoing political debates. Candidates need to hear that there are personal ramifications of their high level decisions re. agriculture and food policy. So far I have heard none of these questions surface in the presidential debates.
With recognition of the irony, I think what we need is “grounding” in the basics of the several faces of farming/agriculture at the hyper local level. As one grounding resource I would suggest the series of recent interviews conducted by Peter Shea who talked at the kitchen table level with a mix of individuals and families in Southwest Minnesota who are backbone producers and purveyors of the world’s food. (http://ias.umn.edu/southwest-Minnesota-food/) Herein lies many of the answers to the global and local challenges of food security.