A broken food system

A broken food system

Here is a diagram of some bad decisions for people being influenced by the system they perpetuate.  If we ever hire a graphic designer and have money to waste (we won’t), we’ll have that person make an image of a merry-go-round-that we got moving too fast and we can’t jump off.  Below are the links.


1. Elected politicians subsidize grain to lower costs http://goo.gl/n4YII
2. Farms subsidies incentivize overproduction of grain http://goo.gl/iZX2s
3. Cheap and overproduced grain is fed to livestock http://goo.gl/oQEx
4. Livestock becomes overproduced from inexpensive and overproduced grain http://goo.gl/LYiif
5. Overproduced livestock becomes cheap meat http://goo.gl/2IeQ1
6. Cheap meat is used to reduce the cost of portions http://goo.gl/S32fp
7. Reduced cost of portions increased sizes of portions http://goo.gl/dd1ta
8. People eat oversized portions http://goo.gl/K34PI
9. People become oversized from eating oversized portions http://goo.gl/PpXya
10. Oversized people less satisfied with smaller portions http://goo.gl/jMJE8
11. People demand cheaper and larger portions from restaurants http://goo.gl/sb3ER
12. People elect officials to make food cheaper http://goo.gl/BQwNO and http://goo.gl/KN5oR


In our cycle of decision making concerning the food distribution system, the needs of those who are chronically hungry isn’t a factor for production.   The decision for what food we produce does not factor in to it how many people in the world are starving or who is suffering from obesity for eating the food available.   It is reasonable to think somewhere along the way, the major decisions about what food is going to be produced in this country should take into consideration those who are starving.  We don’t need to do some altruistic rocket-science to know that our government tax dollars and the economy in which we participate should seriously work toward ending malnutrition.  There are around 1 billion people who are chronically hungry in the world right now, and yet our food economy will feed enough food to cattle this year to feed all hungry people on the planet.

At what point do the 3 billion people on the planet who suffer from chronic hunger, obesity, and nutrient deficiency influence our decision making about what we do with our food? The global fast food industry sold over $160 billion dollars of food last year.  Compare that to the budget of the World Food Program, which is overwhelmingly the largest humanitarian food agency on the planet, but only  has an annual budget of $7 billion dollars. Most of that funding comes in the form of overproduced corn and soybeans from the United States.  While the World Food Program is the most effective organization on the planet for feeding those who suffer from hunger, even they can’t get away from the problem of the cycle of overproduction of grain in the United States.  Here is a quick summary of what is going on:

“The United States spends $1.2 billion on food for the world’s hungry, making it the biggest provider of food aid. It is also the biggest contributor to the UN’s World Food Program (WFP). But […] instead of donating money, the United States donates food, almost all of which it produces itself. The government buys grain from its subsidized farmers, and the grain is transported by US shipping companies and loaded onto US ships.  In this way about half the value remains in the United States — a hidden subsidy at the expense of the hungry. It is also noticeable that poverty in the world seems to rise sharply during times of the greatest US overproduction. When that happens, even countries that are not in need receive free grain — to the detriment of local farmers.”

To summarize the summary: Not only does overproduction of grain create obesity in the United States, it is oftentimes dumped on countries which don’t need it.  The WFP can refuse to take overproduced grain which is creating problems for the price of grain around the world, but then with what are they going to feed the 1  billion people who are hungry, and will they receive cash instead? Hardly. The latest version of the Farm Bill cut food aid programs for poor voters in America. Just imagine how high of a priority a non-voting, non-English speaking, child in the Sahel is during an election year in the US.

The biggest problem of the cycle of overproduction, and the boost it receives from the fast food industry, is that it ignores the needs of people, and therefore overproduces at the rate it does.  Not only does it ignore the needs of those who go hungry, but it also ignores the needs of a balanced food economy and ecology by prioritizing profit over the well-being of people.

Here is an example of this:


In a country, which primarily identifies itself as Christian, I’m finding our food policies a bit hard to swallow.  Matthew 25 tells the story of the only time Jesus talks about who is going to heaven and hell.  The story doesn’t mention atheists, agnostics, murders, rapists, and thieves.  It only talks about Christians, and people who think they are Christians. And, the only thing which separates the two groups is what they did and didn’t do in their lifetime.  What’s ironic is that neither group knows the actions which they did to earn them their spot in either heaven or hell; Jesus has to tell them what’s up:  The real Christians were the one’s who fed the poor, gave water to the thirsty, clothed those without clothes, and visited those who were in prison, and the whole time they did it, it just seemed natural to them, so much so, they didn’t even realize they were doing it for Jesus. He had to tell them how amazing their acts were, and with each act of service to the poor, they were doing it as if they were serving him directly.  The story continues that those who didn’t serve the poor, also did not serve Jesus, and because they made of their faith something which was apart from service to the poor, he never knew them.   At the end of the day, this story shows that a relationship with Jesus is so interrelated to serving the poor, that it’s as if our service to the poor is a relationship with Jesus.

All of this leads me to one question: If we really are a Christian nation, why do we have a food system which ignores the needs of the poor?

The only other time Jesus speaks to people who think themselves to be Christians, but aren’t, is in the book of Revelation.  And in the last days, Jesus says this to the church in Laodicea, I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:15-17).


Isn’t it time we figure out how to make space at the table for all people?