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041: International Food Aid and Hummus (Day 10)

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

Does hummus belong to Israel or Palestine? What is the difference between ‘hunger’ and ‘malnutrition’? Why was there a sudden spurt of Thai restaurants in the United States? How do the corn, sugar, wheat, and dairy lobbies shape our food pyramids? How do Pepsi bottles, Sunsilk shampoo sachets, and Lays chips travel to the remotest corner of Indian hills, but wheat and vegetables are in scant supply? Is it possible for corporations to become allies in order to fulfil the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?

On Day 10 of the Food and Politics course, Ragini Kashyap walked us through the complicated world of international food aid in the 20th and 21st centuries. A world where in 1974, the onus of food security lay with governments, and in 1996, the terminology changed to include the language of nutrition and safety. With the introduction of ‘scientific’ terminology in the World Food Summits, business corporations could gain a foothold in food distribution, and public policy took a back seat.

Kashyap guided us through a perplexing world of aid, where 2 trillion dollars of assistance flow from the global north to the global south; while 5 trillion dollars worth of grains flow from the global south to the glocal north. A world where the 8 SAARC countries have enough produce to feed its citizens, but lack political dialogue and food distribution systems, thus forcing a vast majority of children to suffer from chronic hunger within the subcontinent.

At the end of this sobering talk, Dr. Kurush Dalal raised the difficult question “Who are we to force farm workers to farm?” Are they ever asked if they want to ‘feed the nation’ while they themselves starve. How do children break out of the cycle of poverty and hunger perpetuated by this institutional drudgery which feeds us - the "food parasites" in the cities?

Further Reading:

Patel, Raj. Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. United States, Melville House Pub., 2007.

"Make Hummus Not War" documentary

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