Caryn Hartglass talks about meeting Kanayo F Nwanze, president of the at the UN who spoke about “waking up the world” to the severe consequences of what happens when people are hungry.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody I’m Caryn Hartglass and we’re back for the second part of today’s show It’s All About Food here on October 14, 2014. So, I think I’ll tell you a little story. Once upon a time, actually once upon a yesterday morning, I was invited to what was billed as an exclusive breakfast with Kanayo Nwanze, who is the President of the UN Fund for Agricultural Development, and he was giving a presentation speaking about waking up the world to the severe consequences of what happens when people are hungry. That sounded like it was right up my alley so I was very delighted to go. I want to tell you what happened.
I knew it was a breakfast, and that was the first red alert for me so I’m thinking I wonder what these food-focused people are going to be serving for breakfast, and will their breakfast be a kind of a conscious breakfast or an unconscious breakfast. Do you know what I mean? Well, before I got there I had a little smug conversation with myself and I made sure that I brought my own tea made with my filtered and distilled water and my organic bulk blackberry tea and a little unsweetened organic soy milk and I carried it in a lovely little glass bottle with a rubber protective exterior. So I had my great tea and I brought a couple of organic pears with me. I was ready to go. When I got there, sure enough, what do you think they were serving for this exclusive breakfast? Well, we had coffee and tea, we had three kinds of cow milk, we had half and half, full fat milk and non-fat milk. There were a couple little bowls, one had every kind of sweetener imaginable, every kind of white powdered sweetener – Equal and Splenda and white sugar and there was Sugar in the Raw and did you know that sugar is the second most addictive substance next to cocaine? I just learned that. We’re going to be talking about that in a couple of weeks, but I want to get back to what I’m talking about. And then there was a little container with jellies in it, and it wasn’t a brand I was familiar with but the ingredients were, there was a little high fructose corn syrup in there – delightful – and then of course we had a selection of white flour bread foods – croissant, bagels – America’s favorite foods, but from my point of view, these are foods that are not only disease promoting, but they are also environmentally destructive. It just, I don’t know why I am always so surprised when I am going to an event with health experts or food experts and you get the same junk served, is that because that’s what we want to eat or is it because we don’t know any better? So I was a little frustrated there, but not surprised.
And then there were, this wasn’t a big event there was only about 10 of us, there were some people from the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, and the progressive radio network – me! And Kanayo Nwanze, who is the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the acronym is IFAD, and you can find out more about them at www.IFAD.org. He is a lovely gentleman, charming and very articulate and shared lots of information and stories and some concerns. They do some really nice work there, where he was really clear to say that they don’t want to give subsidies to help people buying food. What they want to do is invest in people, they invest in farmers, they invest in farmers and their families – rural people. And he made it very clear that these people that they help primarily in Africa and other countries are not victims, they’re not looking for handouts, they’re looking to build their agricultural businesses. And this is great.
I really like that mission, but of course you know me, I always find something to be frustrated with and sure enough I was, so after we had a lovely presentation it was open to questions and my question was what kind of agriculture are you supporting? And then I clarified a little bit talking about here in the United States and in other countries we have made a lot of mistakes. We’ve made mistakes with pesticides and herbicides and genetically modified organisms and mono-cropping and growing foods for animals to feed people which is very inefficient and growing foods like wheat and sugar cane and sugar beets for sugar and corn for corn syrup in order to make processed foods and the result is we’re sick we have heart disease, diabetes and cancer, it’s expensive, we’re destroying the planet with these unsustainable methods of agriculture and I wanted him to know are these people going to learn from our mistakes? Are you supporting agriculture like organic agriculture? Are you using native, wild grasses and wild flowers like we learned a few weeks ago with Eric Mader using beneficial insects in order to balance the crop production so that pests don’t overtake the crops and you don’t have to dump toxic chemicals on your crops? Are you protecting the earth?
I didn’t really get a very good response. He wasn’t thinking the same way that I was. He shared some stories about people in China who are growing hundreds of thousands of chickens and how it’s a good thing and they’ve got a good business going. He was not focused on organic production; I think he’s just focused more on people growing food. And I can understand that, but there are opportunities here and there is a lot of funding that’s being used and why aren’t we doing the best that we possibly can? Is it because people don’t know what the best thing is, so they think they’re doing what’s best? I want to think that that’s what’s going on. But you have to understand that I’m extremely frustrated because why does history have to keep repeating itself? Why do we keep exporting bad ideas – you know what we’re talking about, we have India and China right now and as their economies grow, they’re eating more animals and more processed food and they’ve got diabetes. The numbers are hitting the roof. They’ve never had these health issues before. Do we want to trade poverty for bad health and a destroyed environment? You can imagine how frustrated I was.
Let’s see, what else. We talked about a number of things and one of the things you may have heard about with respect to Ebola is right now it’s primarily affecting three countries and it has the opportunity to affect other countries. One of the things he talked about is that the people in those three countries are not going to the fields to grow their food, and they do export food to other countries in the surrounding area. He said what we’re going to see is a food shortage, not just in those three countries that are impacted but all around those countries as well. And that’s a frightening thing. So as we always talk about how everything is connected, often times when countries are having food crisis, the United States and other countries will come in and provide subsidies, provide very low cost grains and things and often that puts the few farmers that are struggling to survive and grow food, it puts them out of business. They can’t compete with those cheap grains, those subsidized foods, and he made an important point that the consumers in those countries have to have a demand for wanting local farmers to produce their food. So we’re all kind of connected and we’re all responsible for everything that we want.
But I really like the concept of the IFAD of investing in rural people. You may visit their website at www.IFAD.org and see they’ve got hundreds of different products that they’re involved in, most of them are food related. He was talking about how some of these local farmers, for example he was just in California and he saw that somebody, what was the country he was from, well this one farmer had coffee beans in California. And that was a little flag for me too I mean it’s great that some of these small farmers can sell their products to other countries but is that really the way we want to go too? To have these poor folks sell coffee, sugar, tobacco, whatever – those commodity foods – sell them to the richer countries so that we can have our treats?
I just wish that there was a way to have a better plan in place so that the priority for everyone in every local region would be to grow nutritious food first for their people before they start growing and shipping out goodies for other richer places.
But he gave out some really fascinating numbers. He said that investing in agriculture is five times more productive than any other business at reducing poverty. And that’s really important. So what they’re doing, investing in rural farmers, really has a tremendous impact on poverty and it makes me think of the big corporations that are promoting genetically modified food, how they say it’s going to feed the world. Well it’s not going to feed the world. What will feed the world is investing in these farmers themselves so that they can grow their own food, whatever they want to grow, and make enough money to feed their families and send their children to school. Let’s see. That was my adventure.
I mentioned, it was really ironic that after leaving this food event I went back home and I took the subway. As I entered the subway, I saw three things in such close proximity to each other. There was a very frail man in frayed clothing. He had a cane. He had his hand out. He looked like he was blind or had a vision problem – I couldn’t really tell. Then right near by him were two young, vivacious women who were chatting together and they were standing behind a table of literature – Jehovah’s witnesses with the Awake magazine, you’ve seen that sometimes? And there were some headlines that said “What does the Bible teach us?” And behind them was someone sleeping on a bench and it looked like he could be parked there for quite a while, like a homeless person for example. And I just thought it was very odd to see this picture together. And when we talked about consciousness before, here are a couple people talking about doing good, what does the bible teach you, and yet there were two people in desperate need so close to them. But we are at this point in our consciousness because of everything going on around us, we either feel like there’s nothing we can do to help people that are just ten feet away from us. It’s fascinating to me.
The message that I got from the UN event yesterday, Kanayo Nwanze, what he said he wanted us to walk away with was to wake up the people. And we were just talking about consciousness. We need to all wake up a little and be aware of what’s around us. I didn’t eat my two organic pears that I brought with me to the lecture so I gave it to the guy who had his hand out. I hope that helped him. It’s really hard to know what to do. But being numb, I don’t think that’s a good thing. I think we should try and do as much as we can do. Even if it’s just looking in people’s eyes and giving them a little smile.
Well I just want you to digest that for a little while. I want to remind you of a few things. One is the video interview of Evita Ochel and myself on the home page of www.responsibleeatingandliving.com, it’s about 45 minutes and I enjoyed it, so if you watch it I hope you do too. I want to tell you next week we have Chef AJ and Maya Gupta. Chef AJ is a chef and culinary instructor. And Maya Gupta, I’ve been trying to get her on the program for a very long time and I think it’s really going to happen next week. She’s with the Animals and Society Institute and another thing I wanted to invite you too is a free event tomorrow evening with John and Ocean Robbins. It’s called ‘Healthy Kitchen Power Hour’. It’s free, again, but you have to sign up at www.healthy.foodrevolution.org. I’m working with them and kind of excited about this project. It’s at 5:30 Pacific Time and 8:30 Eastern Time tomorrow, Wednesday, October 15 at www.healthy.foodrevolution.org.
I want to thank you for listening today. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, I have. Remember, you can always send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from you. Remember, have a delicious week, won’t you? Bye Bye!
Transcribed by Alyssa Moody 12/2/2014