Earlier this month, Howard G. Buffet, son of billionaire Warren Buffet and United Nations Ambassador Against Hunger, wrote a piece for the Des Moines Register about hunger in the United States and proposed budget cuts threatening some of our federal nutrition programs. I wholeheartedly agree with his ultimate stance: reducing the deficit shouldn’t come at the cost of our nation’s poor.
But I think he’s left out a couple of really important points. I have a lot of things floating around in my head about this, but for now, I just want to put a couple of ideas on the table.
Buffet talks about living on some of the world’s richest farmland, with the highest corn and soybean yields in the country. But the corn and soybeans farmed in the Midwest aren’t for direct consumption by humans. Rather, we’re making feed for cows in feedlots, high fructose corn syrup and ethanol to drive our cars.
Buffet states that the U.S. feeds 20 percent of the world on 10 percent of the world’s arable land. But what are our top food exports? Wheat, feed grains, oilseeds and rice. Not exactly nutritional powerhouses.
With regard to our nation’s nutritional “safety nets,” I see a federal food program in action four days a week when I drop my daughter off at daycare, which is located at a homeless shelter. The kids in her class are, for the most part, eating federally approved and subsidized junk. I would even go so far as to argue that some of the items served aren’t actually even food. The fact that our nation’s poor (and their toddlers!) are provided with such unhealthy options (and is it really an option, if you can’t afford anything better?) at a time when so many food and lifestyle related diseases are skyrocketing is appalling.
I think we need to take a much closer look at the programs we want to defend and think about how we can improve them so they’re worth saving. Otherwise, we’re going to continue having fat, sick, hungry Americans. Until a bag of carrots costs less than a bag of chips at the grocery store, I’ll have a hard time believing our current agricultural model is the answer to our nation’s hunger problems.
What do you think?