Thursday, June 01, 2023

Food Issues: In My Kitchen Part 2

My kitchen.

Yesterday, I posted a review of what's been going on in my kitchen in May, as I do each month. I also like to think about food in a more general way, and ask how my narrow little world fits into the world at large. Unfortunately this frequently leads me to think about global food insecurity, which is the subject of my follow-up thoughts today.

The border fence as we saw it last February while birding in San Diego.
Can we keep the evils of our world away from us by building higher fences?

Let's get out of our own narrow and mostly fortunate lives and think about the world — even if this thinking depresses us! It's so peaceful and happy in our kitchens that it's hard to see how the world is doing beyond our little lives. Sadly, every month seems to bring new reports about the disasters looming over humanity. The way we eat, the way we drive cars, the way we garden, the way we travel... are we  monsters? 

Desperate refugees are massed at the border of our country, but we don't see one important, underlying reason that drives them to come here: hunger! Such a contrast to our happy and maybe isolated lives, most refugees have fled from their own countries because of changes in political, social, and material stability. They take unimaginable risks because they think asylum in the US is worth the agony of long walks in uncertain conditions, exposure to predatory gangs, living without shelter, uncertain border crossings, and many other dangers. But a major problem where they come from is too often simple: not enough to eat!

José Andrés, a famous chef and also a famous leader of humanitarian programs to feed people after natural disasters and human-caused disasters, wrote a concerning op-ed recently, about the state of the world and the refugees fleeing so many disasters:  "Why Global Hunger is a National Security Threat," May 22, 2023.  He reminds us of this:

"We cannot build a wall high enough to stop the army of mothers with hungry children in their arms."

José Andrés founded a very effective organization, World Central Kitchen, which quickly sets up field kitchens in areas in crisis, and after the emergency situation has past, provides training and help for people to be self-sufficient. World Central Kitchen has brought good, appropriate foods to the people of Puerto Rico, Honduras, and others after hurricanes; to the victims of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey; to the people of Ukraine during the ongoing war; and to troubled areas in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. In creating this organization, Andrés has acquired expertise on issues of hunger and emerging disasters.

Andrés Warns of Global Hunger

A warning from Andrés in the article in the Washington Post paints a bleak picture of the current state of humanity. He writes:

"The scale of the global crisis is so great that hunger now represents a threat to our security, our borders and our projection of power. ... U.S. security agencies predicted a world, right around now, when water shortages and floods would 'risk instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States on important US policy objectives.'”

Social disruption and political instability are not just theoretical consequences of climate change in our world: they are affecting millions of people whose lives are now at risk. Refugees on our borders come from a growing number of countries where declining food supplies have contributed to political and social chaos. A severe drought is having a huge impact in Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Shortages of food have increased political and social problems. Large numbers of refugees can see no option except to leave these countries and try to gain admission to a Western nation with better opportunities for them and their children. They dream of what life in America might allow them to accomplish.

Andrés points out that the instability of more and more parts of South and Central America and the humanitarian crisis there is a matter of our national security -- not something we can dismiss or ignore or solve by building a bigger fence. Needless to say, I agree with him that there is also a matter of human decency involved when it comes to these desperate people, who just a few years ago were farmers or workers or even middle-class residents of stable countries that are now in chaos.

When I think about my own security and well-being in our kitchen this month, I'm also thinking about the global problem that José Andrés is describing. He proposes that one solution is more coherent action by the US Federal Government and increased allocations of funds for international food programs that might forstall the coming disasters:

"Food can be the solution to multiple crises: from our health to our climate, from immigration to global security. But only if we think differently and prioritize our food. Our global food systems are broken, and we urgently need structural change. That starts right here in Washington."

Can Anything Save Us? 

I'm not optimistic about any solution to this huge problem being created (especially with our current Congressional gridlock situation). Food insecurity is just one consequence of the rapid changes in climate leading to many terrible situations, beginning with its effect on third-world countries, but also threatening to our own stability. More and more, we are part of one world with a set of emergencies that narrow-minded policies won't ever make better. 

I see the people at the border wall in California, Arizona, Texas... and think: it could happen to us. We need compassion and we need intelligent action. This is what hunger and desperation look like:

-- Source, CBS News

-- Source: Courthouse News Service

Why are the refugees risking so much by coming here?

Another look at the refugees and why they are trying to come here is described in the article "Pessimistic Americans fail to see the dream that migrants chase” by Gabriel Pasquini, in the Washington Post, May 30, 2023:

“The ‘negative’ motivations attributed to migrants have been met with equally ‘negative’ disincentives: threats of expulsion, detention and family separation, which all come at the end of an inhuman trek through a legal no man’s land.

“That ‘negative’ way of looking at migrants omits the most powerful force impelling them to brave the journey: a hope and a dream.”

One hundred years ago my father came to the US hoping for an education and opportunity. One hundred twenty years ago, my maternal grandfather brought his wife, three children, and mother-in-law to this country to seek a better life (and also for the children later born here, including my mother). Along with vast numbers of other immigrants, my relatives took risks for themselves and their descendants. Gratefully, I would say that we all have lived the American dream. When I think of the masses of people at the border, I think of these immigrants from an earlier time, and of the millions whose descendants now make up our country’s people. Can we find room for another generation of immigrants? I don’t know the answer.

Blog post © 2023 mae sander


Lori said...

This is a topic that has weighed heavily on my mind since the 90's. While living in SW Florida, I met a number of people that had immigrated from Columbia, El Salvador, etc. One was originally a doctor in her country but could not do that here without US training and had taken a job as a janitor at a school. I couldn't begin to understand how bad things had to be that they left everything they knew to move to a foreign country where they didn't speak the language or know anyone. They literally were starting over with close to nothing. All these years later, it's all even more complicated here now. I don't have the answers but we really should have done better.

anno said...

Thank you for this view of a "bigger kitchen," one that extends across borders. Interesting to note, isn't it, that the United States is one of the few (the only?) countries that does not have a national language. Says a lot, I think.

Iris Flavia said...

It´s an unfair world.
You remind me I wanted to blog about something not really related, I will do that tomorrow. Well, actually it is related.

eileeninmd said...

That is a difficult question, I feel a lot of Americans do not want more immigrants in our country. The politicians do not want to help solve this crisis. I am glad the World Central Kitchen is there to help is the areas where help is needed. Take care, enjoy your day!

Linda said...

It is sad to the of an “army of mothers with hungry children in their arms." There but for the grace of God…

We are not monsters, exactly. Rather, we are creatures who inherited certain survival traits. We look first to the security of our own family and those who look like our relatives. Spiritual teachers have tried to enlighten us, but it goes against our genetic heritage. We are selfish by nature, because that helped our ancestors to survive and outcompete.

Very likely, greedy and selfish human nature will lead us to a disaster that depletes the population. We have already gone through a wave of depletion via Covid. War, of course, shrinks the population periodically, and instinctively we feel that it is necessary. I don’t have a good solution. I suppose artificial intelligence will tell us some solutions, and we will ignore them, just as we ignored the true message of spiritual leaders.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

When I first became a librarian, I worked in Houston ISD, and I'll never forget a conversation I had with a fifth-grade boy. He was bright, and I encouraged him to apply to go to a magnet school. He couldn't, he told me, because he had to watch his younger brothers and sisters while his mom worked as a custodian at night in a big building. It's so much better here, he told me, than in the big city in Central America where we lived before. None of us children could sleep at night for all the guns going off. And we have food every day.

All the guns going off. Food every day.