Food Disparity in Hungry Planet

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        To many it is common knowledge that there is a vast disparity of food security across the world. Peter Menzel’s photographic essay, “Hungry Planet”, brings this disparity to life by showing the differing food expenditures of families across the world. Of particular interest to me was the Aboubakar family of the Breidjing Camp in Chad and the Caven family of California in the United States.

        The Cavens are a family of four with a weekly food expenditure of $159.18. Much of their food could be labelled as “cheap food”, it is carbohydrate heavy, processed, and easily heated up in the microwave or oven. They have access to varied fruits and vegetables, many that are likely from other countries. They also have enough meat to eat one meal a day that features meat as a protein source.

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        The Aboubakars are a refugee family of six with a weekly food expenditure of $1.23. Their weekly grocery consists of a jug of water, rice, grain, and a small amount of vegetables. They do not have the luxury of easily prepared meals or appliances to aid their food production.

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        The disparity between these two families can be attributed to many different factors. Amartya Sen asserts that political circumstances are a major determining factor, democratic countries do not allow their people to go hungry because it could jeopardize future elections. Vandana Shiva disputes this claim, noting that this reasoning ignores the impact of globalization and trade liberalization. International institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund also contribute to the disparity by promoting industrialization over agriculture, which benefits developed countries over undeveloped countries and has a large personal impact on local farmers. The World Trade Organization formed an “Agreement on Agriculture” that reduced subsidies on exports and domestic markets and also reduced tariffs. Oxfam found that under this agreement 97% of the benefits go to rich and middle-income countries. While there are many causes for the disparity of food security one thing is certain, action needs to be taken to work towards ensuring more food security for undeveloped countries.

Menzel, Peter, and Faith D’Aluisio. Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. Material World Press, 2007.

Sen, Amartya. “Why Half the Planet Is Hungry.” Global Policy Forum, 16 June 2002,

Shiva, Vandana. “Vandana Shiva Responds to Amartya Sen.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 22 June 2002,

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