The Daily Spud

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Spud Sunday: World Spud Day

Sadly, folks, I have to break it to you that it’s not actually World Spud Day (epic and all as such a thing would be).

What I can tell you, however, is that today is World Food Day, a day for focusing attention on the sombre matter of people not having enough to eat. Not the cheeriest of topics, I’ll grant you, but not one to be ignored easily either.

Now, would that I could blithely say that spuds were the answer to world hunger but, even though you can feed more people more easily from an acre of potatoes than you can, say, from an acre of wheat, and historically, potatoes have been a great sustainer of the poor, the issues surrounding global food insecurity are damnably complex.

The core of the problem can be stated plainly enough, however. For all sorts of reasons, from increasing oil prices to climate change, food prices have been on the rise and people are spending more and more of their incomes on simply trying to feed themselves. The Global Hunger Index (see the interactive map below, from the International Food Policy Research Institute) identifies the areas where the hunger levels are most severe, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

While the issues may be many and difficult, however, that’s not to say that the potato, one of the world’s major staple food crops, doesn’t have a role to play. The UN International Year of the Potato in 2008 was all about spotlighting the role that the potato can play in providing food security and eradicating poverty. Perhaps regarding today as World Spud Day wouldn’t be such an outrageous notion after all.

3 Comments

  1. We who are fortunate to have access to plentiful food often don’t realize the severity of global food insecurity. As you note, it’s a complex problem that has no single culprit – the causes range from the economic to the environmental. Sadly, in many countries shown on the map, a lot of agriculture is geared toward export crops!

    As for foodstuff that could help alleviate food insecurity, cultural considerations can be sensitive, too: a few years ago, Malawi suffered extremely poor harvests of its primary staple crop, corn. But encouragement from the government and international groups to consider other staples like rice and potatoes were met with surprising resistance. Corn in the form of porridge-like nsima was (please pardon the pun) too ingrained in Malawi’s identity.

    Then again, when it comes to widespread hunger, we can’t simply give up and say nothing can be done. Thanks for sharing this information and reminding me of this important issue!

  2. Great piece (as always). I have been buried alive this week and very behind on my readings. You know, I really do think that the spud can help in the global food crises but think it has gotten such a bad rap from a few things.

    (1) terrible PR over the famine
    (2) Atkins and South Beach killed it because of carbs and
    (3) with the fat tax launched already in a few countries sales of things like Chips and Tayto will take a nose dive.

    What the spud really needs is a Public Relations manager.
    I am voting for you.

  3. Daily Spud

    Monday, October 24, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Tracey: I can always count on you for interesting cultural perspectives, TN – the attachment to, or resistance towards, certain foods does have a huge bearing on potential solutions to the hunger issue, as the Malawi example so clearly illustrates

    Móna: The spud has indeed gotten a bad rap in certain quarters and I am honoured that you would consider voting for me as Potato PR. I’ll just go and apply a bit of spit and polish to my manifesto then shall I? :)

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