1. Food Matters
I was in a church meeting once where the speaker was talking about being passionate for God and went round asking people what their passions were. All sorts of answers were given: one said prayer, another said worship, someone else said evangelism… He happened to pick me out too and asked me what my passion was. When I said, ‘food’, everyone laughed!
This was a strange thing to me and seemed to reflect an unhelpful dualism that has only given significance to activities that are seen as ‘spiritual’. Something as mundane as food could never be a subject that Christians should be interested in!
But the If Campaign shows us that our approach to food and how we eat is an essential part of how we follow Jesus: God is interested in everything that he has created and how we eat is every bit as important to him as any other area of our lives. (If you’re interested in looking further at biblical reflections on food then take a look at this seven-day Bible reading plan).
2. The ‘Little People’ Matter
One of the things I’ve learnt through the If Campaign is that the majority of the world’s farms are small-holdings. In fact, smallholder farmers produce over 70% of the world’s food, and out of the roughly 525 million farms worldwide, 85% of those are two hectares or less. Do you like coffee and chocolate? Most of the world’s coffee and cocoa is produced by some 30 million smallholders.
These are the ‘little people’, but because of our next point, they are losing out. In fact, half of the world’s hungry are farmers. Most small farmers buy more food than they sell, which means that they don’t actually gain overall from high food prices
Scripture teaches us that God favours the little people: those who are losing out because of injustice and an abuse of power. The If Campaign has taught me that if I want to see an end to hunger, then the little people matter.
3. The ‘Big People’ Matter Too
Whilst the majority of the world’s food is produced by small-holder farmers, the majority of the money and the power within the global food system is held elsewhere. So many examples could be given, but let’s just think about tea and bananas (because they are consumed a lot in my household!):
- Seven companies control 85% of tea production through their factories and estates. Smallholder tea growers are likely to receive less than 3% of the retail value of tea, and often less than 1%.
- Five companies (Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte, Noboa and Fyffes) control around 75% of world banana trade. Of banana retail price, only 1-3% returns to the workers on large plantations and just 5-10% goes to small-scale producers.
Excuse me, but that’s just wrong.
If we want to see an end to hunger then the If Campaign has taught me that addressing the big people and the massive imbalances of power they perpetuate has to be a part of what we do.
4. Women Matter
The imbalance in our global food system is most concentrated when we consider what place women play in this. Do you think of most farmers as men, going out to tend the fields while their womenfolk take care of the house and family? Well think again!
60 – 80% of food in most developing countries is grown and/or processed by women. I’ve been surprised to learn through my reading for things I’ve done for the If Campaign that women are the main producers of the world’s staple crops (rice, wheat and maize). This is even more important when you realise that those staple crops provide 90% of the food consumed by the rural poor in Africa. Despite this, women own only 2% of the world’s land.
I hope you’re as shocked by that as I am.
Women are thus absolutely vital to the production of the world’s food, and we cannot hope to tackle global hunger without also considering the wide range of issues around the development of women.
5. Our Response Matters
I’ll be honest here: I don’t want to be a part of a system that is so intrinsically based on inequality and injustice. Do you?
So let’s do something about it. There are some great ways by which we can all get involved in campaigning on these issues. Have a look here for some ideas. But your biggest opportunity is this Saturday (June 8th), when thousands of people will gather in central London ahead of the G8 summit to demonstrate just how much they care and to show the world’s media that we know what needs to be done to start to end the injustice of hunger (and, if you live in Northern Ireland, your big moment is in Belfast on the 15th).
I’ll be there and I hope you will too.