When your bowl is empty, the stomach is empty too. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently released global data which indicates that there may in fact be many more empty bowls, not only in the poorest areas of the world, but also within the most industrialized nations of the world. What data could possibly be the harbinger of such tragic news?

According to FAO Director-General, Jacques Diouf, the global cost of basic food supplies has escalated.  The FAO notes:  “According to new global hunger figures, that number [of food insecure persons] has since dipped to 925 million people. However, with the recent sharp increase in food prices, that number may rise.  From July to September 2010, wheat prices had surged by 60 to 80 percent in response to drought-fuelled crop losses in Russia and a subsequent export ban by the Russian Federation. Rice and maize prices also rose during that period. By December 2010, the FAO Food Price Index had topped its 2008 peak, with sugar, oils and fats increasing the most.  And the cost of basic food staples remains high in many developing countries, making life difficult for the world’s poorest people who already spend between 60 and 80 percent of their meagre income on food.”

In the United States, we only need look around and we see that the number of individuals living below the poverty level is at an all time high, with approximately 43 million of our fellow citizens falling within the foot print of poverty.  We have 53 million of our fellow citizens who are food insecure.  The FAO news is not good news.  But the FAO news is an opportunity to educate and engage on a global basis.  We can continue to reduce the number of food insecure persons in the world to far below 900,000,000.  We can reduce the number of food insecure persons in the United States to below 40,000,000.  It will take our collective effort to engage our public officials, but within the executive branch (that would be Department of Agriculture, Department of State, the President) and legislative branch (both houses of congress) and demand a review of the global a tariffs and export controls on food products.  To ensure that the World Trade Organization is doing their job and ensuring the level playing field for the import and export of food stocks. 

There is sufficient food available in this world today, unfortunately the geopolitical and economic short-sightedness are ensuring that we have 925,000,000 persons not getting that food.  Do something, there are far too many empty bowls.