Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Munchable Soapbox: The Price to Eat

Photo credit: Irada Humbatova/ReutersHello dear readers. The Live Below the Line Challenge is less than a week away! Whilst contemplating how to feed myself on $1.50 per day, it struck me that if this were a reflection of reality, that amount would have to cover much more than just food. 

So what other daily costs or amenities do we often take for granted but would need to factor into my $1.50 per day budget?
  • Electricity and/or gas for cooking, refrigeration, heating, and lighting. Nearly 20% of the global population lacks access to electricity. This has implications for health, where burning wood for fuel to cook and heat often leads to poor indoor air quality and subsequent respiratory health declines (see Clean Cookstoves Project). Refrigeration also increases the shelf-life of food products and reduces post-harvest losses. And when about 1/3 of all food is wasted, this could be a big deal!
  • Clean, potable, and readily available water. How amazing is it that we can turn on a tap and life-giving water comes flowing out. Over 780 million people are still using unsafe water. This leads to illness and poor health, requires that women often spend many hours out of the day fetching water, and ultimately contributes to the trap of poverty.
  • Rent and transportation. Almost one billion people live in slums. Often in urban areas, the slums present appalling conditions - poor sanitation, little shelter, etc. Affordable housing projects can help. Transportation is critical for connecting people to their livelihoods - whether that is getting someone to work in the morning (like me and my bike), connecting communities to food shipments and medical services, or allowing a farmer or tradesman to bring products to a market. More than one billion people do not have access to roads!
  • Time and access. It is a luxury that I have time to go scout out cheap(ish) grocery story. In fact, the presence of a grocery vendor where I can purchase food is phenomenal. This is not universal, and in the U.S. we refer to areas without such stores as "food deserts." But it's not just access to grocery stores. Access to information, education, financial and health services, a voice in government, the list goes on. All of things help end the vicious cycle of poverty.
"Well-fed people have many problems, hungry people have just one." The fact that I just spent time reflecting on all this additional costs may reflect this. Though all of these considerations are connected and have an impact, the fact remains that the poor spend as much as 70% of their income on food (FAO).

Blogging all next week on the challenge, so make sure to visit! And consider donating to the fight against poverty.

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