Play Nice and Share

A short post about food, on World Food Day (October 16th) – part of the Blog Action Day event.

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”

- Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (the original gourmet)

It’s often said that food is one of the few things that connects us all – from the skyscrapers of New York to the jungles of New Guinea.

Biology textbooks will tell you food is chemical energy and nutrients for our bodies; but our relationship with food is far more complicated than that.

Very few of us would even describe having a relationship with air, or even water, which are even more vital to our existence. Clearly food isn’t just chemical energy and nutrients; its emotional, social and cultural. The significance of food is interwoven through our societies from the top to the bottom – from state banquets to birthday parties, whether comforting home made soup for the family or microwave meals for one in a plastic tray. Jean Brillat-Savarin was right, what we eat is central to our lives, it does define who we are.

And not just individually, also as a species.

You’ve probably heard the mantra Half the world is overweight, while the other half starves.

It’s not that far from the truth.

Around a billion people are currently undernourished across the world, with 17,000 children dying from hunger every day. Another billion people have little food security, due to poverty.

At the same time a billion people in the world are overweight or obese, facing increased health risks and shorter lives as a result.

Unfortunately all the forecasts are for both statistics to worsen – with climate change, increasing fuel costs, water scarcity and rising population, alongside poorer quality diets, decreasing levels of physical exercise and increasingly westernised ways of eating in many parts of the developing world. The hungry look set to get hungrier, and the fat fatter!

Food doesn’t just connect us – it also divides us.

The problem isn’t scarcity, but policy, politics and a lack of compassion in the system.

There’s more than enough food in the world to feed everyone, we just need to get better at sharing it.

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Photo by lettorovication, via Flickr


  1. Gareth Richards says:

    A noble sentiment but it’s not about playing it’s about commerce.

    • It’s largely about how we choose to conduct our commerce and the rules we apply.

      Ethically run businesses have been around for a long time, ethical consumption is newer, together they’re potentially transformative.

  2. Thanks for commenting Lorna.

    I think you’re right – it can be very hard to look at ourselves in the rich world and our role in sustaining poverty around the world. Even when we do, its seems its very hard for us as a society to do something to change it.

    It’s come as a bit of a shock to me to find there are quite a lot of people who have no interest in charity or helping others – even those in desperate need. It’s important we find ways to highlight to plight of those most in need in the world, in a way that does’t cause people to ‘close off’ and look the other way.

  3. I couldn’t agree more about the need to get better at sharing food. It feels to me that the same goes for many resources which could help people and communities to thrive. We’re very good at pointing out what is lacking for some group of people, but forget to look the other way at who took those resources, have an unequal share and aren’t up for sharing.

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