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Not Our Menu: False solutions to hunger and malnutrition

2021 edition of the Right to Food and Nutrition Watch

If someone were to spontaneously ask you where your food comes from, would you know the answer? Do you know who grows it and how? The steps taken and the ingredients used to turn your food into meals? How it reaches markets and stores before it finally finds its way onto your plate?

Food is our lifeline, yet we are largely disconnected from it. Instead, we are trapped in the illusion that we have the freedom to buy and consume products that we supposedly want and need, but know little about.

This year’s edition of the Right to Food and Nutrition Watch Not Our Menu: False Solutions to Hunger and Malnutrition – attempts  to connect the dots surrounding the food that we eat.

The Watch’s popular supplement, Plates of Injustices, makes these connections concrete. For instance, it links our consumption of cereal products to mass-produced and pesticide-laden monocrops such as corn and wheat that zap the soil’s nutrients, pollute the air we breathe, and poison water bodies from where we source our food.

 The Watch also tries to deepen our understanding of why producing more food under the for-profit industrial system isn’t a solution to hunger and malnutrition but is in fact the one causing and worsening these problems.

The publication likewise  stresses why we need to disconnect from the industrial food system and reconnect with other food systems that  provide real hunger solutions,   enabling us to feed ourselves with sufficient, nutritious, affordable, and culturally appropriate food. 

In the Watch’s framing article, The Emergence of the Food Systems Discourse and Corporate Solutions to Hunger and Malnutrition, Elisabetta Recine, Ana María Suárez Franco and Colin Gonsalves discuss how the industrial food system evolved and gained power in the last 60 to 70 years by marginalizing existing food systems, weakening the authority of public institutions in addressing hunger and malnutrition, and treating people as mere food consumers instead of rights holders.

In the article, Aquaculture, Financialization, and Impacts on Small-Scale Fishing Communities, Carsten Pedersen and Yifang Tang tell us how the aquaculture industry, historically dominated by small or medium-scale players, rapidly grew under the ownership and control of a small number of transnational corporations but stripped fishers of their livelihoods and their traditional rights to their fishing grounds such as the fishing communities in India, Thailand, and Ecuador.

Meanwhile, in Food Banks and Charity as a False Response to Hunger in the Wealthy but Unequal Countries, Alison Cohen, Kayleigh Garthwaite, Sabine Goodwin, jade guthrie, and Wendy Heip criticize the rise of emergency food aid initiatives between governments and the private sector in countries in the Global North such as the US, Canada, and the UK amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The authors argue that giving surplus food to charities will not address hunger and malnutrition faced by marginalized communities – black, indigenous, and people of color – in these rich countries because these problems require non-food solutions such as through “rebuild(ing) a more equitable society.”

In the Watch’s fourth and last article, An Imperceptible Growth: Healthy Food and Transformative Solidarity, Mario Gabriel Macías Yela, Valéria Torres Amaral Burity, Paulo Asafe C. Spínola, and Sofía Monsalve stress that the enjoyment of the right to adequate food and nutrition can only be achieved if we break free with capitalist ways of living and de-commodify food. The authors also urge people to seek pathways toward the realization of the right to food and food sovereignty.


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