Food Justice Files

Food Justice Files

New Internationalist launches a one-year series dedicated to unpicking why hunger persists, 29th September 2020

Imagine you can see the ocean from your window. In those waters swim tiny fish, which are rich in the nutrients that your – and your children’s – bodies need to survive. But neither you, nor your family, can afford to eat them. Instead, these once plentiful local fish – a source of zinc, iron and calcium – are destined for the diets of others. Netted right out from under your nose, they will be turned into food for farmed fish, which will nourish wealthy consumers inland or abroad.

This new reality for coastal communities across the Global South, was revealed by a study into micronutrients led by Kenyan/British Professor Christina Hicks from Lancaster University that showed how fish that used to enrich the soups of the poorest people was being re-routed elsewhere. A revealing indictment of some of the far-reaching inequalities in our global food system, the paper begged urgent questions that sparked the idea for this Food Justice series: who gets to eat – who doesn’t – and how do we fix it?

It’s a question that has never seemed so urgent. The Covid-19 pandemic – the outbreak and the economic aftershocks – has sent shockwaves through our global food system. The World Food Programme has predicted an 82 per cent increase in hunger by the end of the year, which Oxfam translates to mean 12,000 deaths per day. The media warns we have never faced a hunger emergency like this one.

At the same time, the way we feed ourselves has never been so up for debate. How did so many millions of people get tipped into hunger so fast? Governments, producers and consumers are re-thinking supply chains; major retailers, Big Data and agriculture transnationals are positioning themselves as best-placed to respond. At this moment, it’s more important than ever that the interests of the least-nourished are the ones being served by the food policy set in place today.