World Food Week and the Economic Challenges of Food Security

November 1, 2012

When Christ asks Peter if he truly loves Him, Christ answers his claims of love with a command: Feed my sheep (John 21:15-17). We are called to feed others, not just with the Bread of Life, but literally with food and proper sustenance for others to live and not go hungry. Today hunger remains a major problem in the world, and after last week’s World Food Week, we must provide greater food security to people worldwide. We must keep those who have wealth in our blessed country and society, especially large corporations and governments, responsible to the world community. Through government work as well as private enterprise, the world must have sustenance of its people preserved.

There are major consequences when groups who have wealth do not provide food security to all. Huge corporations and governments in some countries have little care for the people and larger care for the profit. These groups may violate the environment as well: if they lack the care of their workers, they will lack the care of the surroundings and natural resources they intend to use. Deforestation is one consequence of biofuels. We find written in the book of Sirach: “The bread of charity is life itself for the needy/whoever withholds it is a murderer/To take away a neighbor’s living is to commit murder;/to deny a laborer wages is to shed blood./If one builds up and another tears down,/what do they gain but trouble?” (Sirach 34:25-28)

One of the crises we are witnessing which puts profit over people is the explosion of the biofuel industry in the United States, causing a disproportionate corn trade worldwide. The United States is one of the largest producers and exporters of corn. As the research done by Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute shows, the United States has policies in place which demand that biofuel production increase through 2022, an impossible task figuring how much corn production is already directed towards biofuels., and how much land and crop is being used to achieve the task. Forty percent of corn is already used for ethanol. Thus, this increase of ethanol production has had major consequences on the global market. Export prices of corn are rising, meaning that countries with lower Gross Domestic Product outputs must pay more to trade for needed food and resources. Trade imbalances are a major contributor to poverty and hunger in developing countries with international debt. Change is thus necessary in the biofuel industry in order to not place profit and demand of biofuels above food needed on the tables of families worldwide.

As for private corporations, there is hope that they could bring God’s work of feeding the hungry through public-private partnerships.  The Interfaith Working Group on Food Insecurity came out with a report discussing how the combined work of private and public groups can build a unique solution to some food security problems. Sole private or sole public governance over food supplies can lead to some issues. Private farming companies and cooperatives can easily put profit and expansion over producing the food necessary for the local communities. Public endeavors, however, do have the potential to grow and expand with those they serve in mind. Thus, Private-Public Partnerships provide a successful reconciliation of these two strategies. Such partnerships have already been pioneered by USAID, as the report details above.

Food security around the world must take precedence over the lust for profit that many large corporations and governments have. Christ called us not to horde in inefficient ways: I am reminded by the parable of the Rich Fool when I consider America’s addiction to biofuels. Instead of providing worthily for other countries as well as our own hungry, we are wasting our great abundance of corn on biofuels, just like the Rich Fool wasted the growth his farm experienced by hording it (Luke 12:16-21). However, we also recognize that cooperation and unity are essential to providing food security, and, public-private partnerships provide beautiful opportunities to work with others in bringing food justice to the world.  Cooperation and thriftiness: When feeding the hungry, these truly embody the love and desire of Christ.