How to Make Stone Soup
Some travelers arrive in a village with only an empty cooking pot. When the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the
hungry strangers, they go to a stream and fill their pot with water. Then they drop a large stone in it and place it over a fire. A curious villager passes and asks them what they’re doing. They answer, “We’re making stone soup, which is delicious. We just need a bit of garnish to improve the flavor.” The villager parts with a couple of carrots, which they add to their soup. As more curious villagers pass, each of them adds another ingredient until finally, the flavor is perfect and the villagers and the strangers enjoy the nourishing pot of “stone soup” together.
I share that old folk tale with you in celebration of World Food Day – a day people all over the globe put aside their differences and work together to eradicate hunger.
Whether you’re a president or a professor, a farmer or a legislator, a cashier or a celebrity, you have something to add to the pot on World Food Day.
A Brief History of World Food Day
The United Nations established the day in 1979 to “heighten public awareness of the world food problem and strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty”. It’s celebrated on October 16 each year to commemorate the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 1945.
This is the 70th anniversary of World Food Day and people across the globe will assemble to reinforce the pledge to eradicate hunger.
World Food Day operates on the principle that every human being has a fundamental right to healthful, nourishing food. But the worldwide statistics are pretty grim:
- 1 in 7 Americans do not have enough to eat.
- 40 million people worldwide die every year from malnutrition.
- 5 million of them are under 5 years old.
- 4 in 10 children from developing nations suffer brain and body damage from malnutrition.
- The global cost of malnutrition is a staggering $3.5 trillion a year.
When every person on the planet has physical and economic access to adequate food at all times, World Food Day will have achieved its goal.
How to End It—the Links Between Food Choice and Hunger
The situation is serious. More than 870 million people in the world suffer every single day from hunger while six million children every year die from starvation. Of the world’s hungry, 33% live in urban settings (in the US and other developed countries) while the remaining 2/3 live in rural areas in more undeveloped countries.
The reasons for hunger are varied. In a developed country like the US where 50 million Americans go hungry, the principle reason for hunger is poverty. In developing countries the reasons are more complicated and include an array of factors such as education, political instability, social inequality and natural resource depletion.
But one fact is crystal clear—our food choices (i.e. whether we consume animal-based or plant-based foods) have a direct influence on the problem of hunger.
According to world expert Richard Oppenlander, here’s how the global demands for animal-based foods affect the developing countries:
- Impacts how global resources are used—from land and water to rainforests.
- Depletes natural resources via overgrazing, deforestation, erosion and desertification.
- Supports the ongoing monopoly of the world’s most powerful companies who control over 65% of all seed and grain and 80% of final animal products in the world. As Oppenlander describes it, ‘this centralized and monopolized production system inputs seed at one end and spews meat out at the other.”
- Impedes developing countries from improving their inefficient agricultural practices.
- Destroys the topsoil; a whopping 50% of all topsoil in Africa has been lost while much of the remaining topsoil is now infertile. The soil fertility issues faced by African countries and beyond is directly related to how they have managed their agricultural systems over the past 100 years, i.e. based on a complete dependence on cattle.
The biggest irony is that even with increased global climate change issues, we are producing enough grain to feed TWICE the amount of people who live on Earth.
But instead of feeding people with that grain—we are feeding animals. Here are TWO facts that really shock:
- In 2011 there was a worldwide record harvest of grain which exceeded 2.5 billion tons. However 50% of that grain was used to feed animals in the meat and dairy industries—not people.
- In many areas of resource-depleted Africa, land can produce up to 3000 pounds of grain, vegetables and fruits that can be eaten directly by humans. That same land, when devoted to livestock can produce less than 100 pounds of meat and a few gallons of milk.
Bottom line is that many countries both in Africa and in the Amazonian region raise cattle at the expense of their soil and other resources while producing only a fraction of the food possible if they converted to plant-based foods.
Importantly (and optimistically) it is possible to change this situation. For example, in the poor Machakos
district of south Kenya, a recent program taught local women farmers erosion and rainwater control techniques with a focus on organic plant-based foods rather than livestock or animal feed crops. Despite low soil fertility, the results were astounding:
- Yields improved more than 50%
- The produce was used to feed far more people
- Spin-off business opportunities (like selling green beans to other countries) generated more income.
Let’s Fix Hunger—One Plant-Based Choice at a Time
Food choice clearly matters. It is not just a personal choice—but a global one.
To thank you for your participation and in honor of World Food Day, Tal Ronnen shares his recipe for Grilled Garden Vegetable Lasagna With Puttanesca Sauce this week.