Did we dodge a food fight?

This article by Frederick Kaufman (author of Bet The Farm) caught my eye a few weeks ago.  It was pre-election and anything to do with Romney, Ryan, Obama, or Biden was a hot topic.  In my social media outlets (like twitter @marianhd1) I avoided getting political, so I tucked the article away in my “blog ideas” folder to let it rest until after the election.

Massive Social Unrest!

Kaufman titled his piece, “Ryan’s Riots: Plan Will Starve One in Five Americans and Create Massive Social Unrest” which will certainly catch a few eyes and earn you a few clicks.  I’m not a fan of gloom and doom, the world is going to end due to a political decision types of writing.  But this had to do with food, so I overcame my aversion.  Kaufman puts together a few important pieces of information:

  1. The Romeny/Ryan financial plan called for some major cuts to nutrition assistance programs (for example, the food stamp program/SNAP).
  2. The prices of food are predicted to only rise in the next few years.
  3. People get angry when they are hungry/can’t afford food.

Regardless of where you sit in the political spectrum, I think we can all mostly agree with these three premises.  I can personally attest to number three.

Although Romney and Ryan will not be sitting in the White House come January, we can quite simply revise our list to:

  1. Money isn’t growing on trees and the country is in massive debt.
  2. The prices of food are predicted to only rise in the next few years.
  3. People get angry when they are hungry/can’t afford food.

American Budget

When contemplating the national budget, we often fall back on the analogy of a household budget, which is much easier for simple folks like me to understand.  In my budget, there are some expenses that are essential and non-negotiable.  The rent must get paid.  The electric bill, the water bill, must get paid. When money gets tighter, those items can’t be cut.  Other items can be trimmed potentially, like the grocery budget, but we still need to buy food.  Some bills might seem frivolous, like an internet bill.  We could go to the library for free internet and computer use.  But canceling the home internet and relying on public access service might make it harder to do the things necessary to ultimately get us ahead and out of our tight situation.  We might not be able to pay our bills on time, apply for jobs, respond to emails on a timely basis, or even start a home business.

I would argue that cutting federal nutrition assistance programs might have a similar impact.  The nation might save money initially, but a new population of struggling and hungry people will result.  These folks now have additional hurdles to getting quality education, getting a job, and being contributing members of society (and paying taxes).

Food Prices

Experts point to the rising cost of grain (as animal feed and people food) as the reason why prices of meat, dairy, and cereals are going up.  Grain has become more expensive as grain-producing regions have experienced more drought than expected.  If anyone is left unsure of whether or not our weather patterns have changed lately, there’s a river in Egypt with their name on it.  We may not know precisely how the changes will impact food growing, but I am comfortable assuming that it will.  Until the world’s farmers figure out how to adapt, we will likely see decreased production, and therefore higher prices.  (This doesn’t even touch on how rising energy costs could impact a food system that relies on petroleum inputs for fuel, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.)

Angry Hungry People

Aside from personal knowledge that I get cranky when I’m hungry, recent national and global history shows riots and political unrest stemming from a lack of affordable and available food.  Click here for a pretty comprehensive map of food based riots and incidences around the world.  Click individual links for some stories unearthed with a quick Google search.  Suffice to say, people don’t stay hungry and silent for long.

So have we dodged a food fight with this election?  Maybe.  But no politician can put the brakes on climate change immediately, and human nature isn’t about to change anytime soon.  As food prices rise, the government’s response will be critical.  In the meantime, maybe I’ll take these guys just a tiny bit more seriously, and plant me a big garden.

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