Students gathered in Shoma Hall last week to hear Raj Patel discuss food and its place in our lives in honor of Food Day. On October 24th, people across the nation come together to “enjoy real food and to push for improved food policies”.
Last Tuesday marked the 7th celebration of Food Day at the U; the festivities continued the following day with a farmers market in the lower UC lounge. Free food and health friendly products were available free of charge to students and the Coral Gables community, as a way to encourage healthy eating habits and begin the conversation about improving food policies in our communities.
Tuesday night’s event was lead by Raj Patel and focused on the complex factors that affect our diets and the problem of malnutrition around the world.
Patel began the night discussing the lack of understanding most Americans have of food labels and nutrition in general. He continued on to discuss the Green Revolution and the idea of solving world hunger.
At a basic level the green revolution was dedicated to producing enough food to feed the billions of people that live around the world. “But having more food, doesn’t mean that people get to eat it,” said Patel. Malnutrition still exists, even when technically the world produces enough food to sustain everyone. Why? Because there is more to malnutrition than having enough food. Patel provided a village in Malawi as an example.
In the village, malnutrition in children was prevalent, so much so that there was a clinic dedicated exclusively to treating malnutrition cases and initiatives were taking place to improve harvests with the idea that if there was more food for everyone, then malnutrition would disappear. However, having more food only made things worse.
In this community the women were in charge of the harvest and due to the increase in harvest productivity they did not have time to both harvest, cook, and care for their children. There was too much work to do. From this realization came initiatives that worked on gender equality and motivating men to help their wives by sharing the chores that the women previously had to do alone.
According to Patel, this village in Malawi is a perfect example of the complexities that are associated with food and how hunger is caused by many things outside of food availability. There are societal factors that impact food and patriarchal societies are just one example. The documentary previewed at the event not only discussed the village in Malawi and its dynamics, but also shed light on how the changes made in the community are now struggling to continue due to climate change and crop failures.
The night concluded with another short clip of the documentary, where 2 women from the village in Malawi travel to the U.S. to discuss climate change and the effects it has had on their community. One of the women refers to life in the U.S. during her visit as a “life of milk and honey” where everything is sweet and perfect, perfectly summing up the idea that climate change is happening and just because we in the U.S. have not seen its effects day to day does not mean that it is not happening and affecting people around the world.