Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 28

FOOD FIGHT CONFERENCE PLENARY 1 - Finberg & panelists could feed if people moved to a fundamentally vegetarian diet and stopped stuffing food in the form of biofuels into their gas tanks. Diet preference also has significant potential to modify the amount of food available for people. JM: I just wanted to speak to the other half of the issue. . . . Are you all familiar with Malthus, whom Max referred to? It’s primarily an idea in biology but population economics as well. Basically, the idea is that human population increases exponentially and food production increases only mathematically. So there’s only so much the land can support. There’s a mathematical kind of law around that. And so half of that calculation is, how much can we produce? The other half is, how many humans can there be? And there’s a reluctance to engage that question and we need to think more carefully about population numbers. DM: I would just echo what Dr. Kolmes said, that eating meat is an extraordinarily inefficient way to feed ourselves. Up until very recently in most cultures, meat was considered a luxury item. It was something that was eaten very rarely. Chicken was eaten very rarely in the United States a half century ago. And now you can find it very cheaply anywhere in our country. So we have begun in the United States to consume much, much more meat than we used to. And that has had a significant impact on our agricultural system in the United States. It’s also true to some extent that, while hunger is a global problem, many people working in areas of development think it needs to be solved locally or regionally. So we make way, way more food in the United States than Americans can consume in a given year. And some of that food goes to people in other parts of the world that are hungry. So we don’t have a problem in the United States with feeding all of our people. But in other areas of the world, that is a significant problem. We do have many hungry people in the United States. But they’re hungry for different reasons than people in India are hungry. And so I think it’s useful to point that out when we’re talking about some of these numbers. JM: And Professor Moyer—to your point and Dr. Kolmes’s as well, the waste in this country of food—I think the most recent year we have data for is 2012, and we wasted thirty-five million tons of food. So that’s another piece of solving this question. BHG: Thank you; very helpful. One of the terms that have been brought up is a “food desert,” and I want to make sure we unpack what that is. Professor Moyer, could you speak to that since I think that’s part of your work? DM: The USDA definition defines areas—and there’s a different definition for a food desert in an urban area than a rural area, and it defines it as low 25