Food for Thought – Thinking about Food
There is an early scene in the musical ‘Oliver’, where the young orphan approaches the master. With an empty bowl in arms outstretched and upheld, and driven by hunger, he has the courage to say, ‘Please sir, I want some more’.
And then this scene morphs itself in my memory into lines of children waiting for rations in any of a number of refugee camps or feeding centres around the world.
The story is the same. Plenty of food, with a poor distribution system. Everyone – poor and rich – needs food. The astronaut going to Mars and the migrant on the street, the author of algorithms and the carpenter need to eat every day. All of us are familiar with the nourishment of food which is one element of our shared humanity.
As the population of our planet increases, the earth still provides more than enough for the needs of all. And still it is estimated that we humans waste one third of all the food produced. If we cared for the earth, would we waste so much food? And yet, in the midst of great hunger the orphan boys were able to sing, ‘Food, Glorious Food’.
The language of food has seeped into our everyday lives. We are accustomed to hearing about food scarcity, food banks, food stocks and food-security. The word consumption has its origin in a context related to food. Consumption is now a lifestyle and consuming is our raison d’être.
The food-chain stretches from land to table, with many implications for the lives and livelihoods of people. Women are now the majority of food-growers, child labour is significant in the story of food today and many who toil from dawn to dusk in growing our food don’t enjoy a healthy diet.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, food-production decreased in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while prices increased!
How excited we have felt during the same pandemic with the lifting of restrictions and the possibility of meeting someone to share a meal again. A simple pleasure!
Our complete dependence on food is amply testified to, in the following quote.
For even saintly folk will act like sinners
Unless they have their customary dinners.
(Bertolt Brecht – The Threepenny Opera)