Party Point – April 2014

John Clark writes…

First published: April 2014

A previous Gazette & Herald letter was headed ‘Food for Thought’. The origin of this phrase has been hard to find but may come from the Babylonian ‘intellectual nourishment’.

My thoughts turned to food. At present one billion people in the world go to bed hungry. How many is this going to be when the population increases from the present 7 billion to the predicted 9 billion. We are told the solution is more intensive food production, more agribusiness and Genetically Modified crops.

These solutions are peddled by the transnationals, the World Trade Organisation and the financial brigade. Those making obscene incomes from small farmers, the poor and anyone else who cannot stand up to the bully boys of the ‘market’. They, of course, are advocating more of the same.

  • One third of world food production is wasted – sufficient to feed the billion who are hungry and leave enough for a billion more.
  • The UK is the largest waster of food in Europe. Half is wasted in the home. UN figures show ¼ of UK people are obese.
  • The number using food banks in the UK is rocketing.

The last time the UK had a financial and food crisis was during World War II. Food rationing was introduced, driven by a shortage of food and a desire to stop massive price inflation; thus protecting poorer households. As a result everyone was able to eat. Health improvements were a bonus – birth weights increased, infant mortality improved and there was less obesity.

The present crises of obesity and food banks need a strong government approach. Food banks are not increasing because of a shortage of food, they are increasing because of a lack of money. This in turn is intensified by low wages and benefit cuts.

Obesity is caused by a whole raft of reasons. However the largest cause is sugar. Sugar intake could be greatly reduced by rationing. This would be a bureaucratic nightmare and very costly for Taxpayers.

The solution is a 20% tax on sugar. There would be a large number of benefits. According to the British Medical Journal this would cause less heart disease and diabetes plus a reduction of 180,000 obese and 285,000 overweight. There would be two gains for austerity Britain – the income from the sugar tax and a reduced health bill.

One way of reducing the food waste in the home would be to stop BOGOFF by supermarkets. Their argument is that it enables people to have cheaper food. This could be achieved by half price offers. The supermarkets would take less money and would be seen to have the waste problem. People buying food to then throw it away is good for the supermarket but no good for households. For households with children the average cost of domestic food waste is £680 per year.

Will the government be prepared to hit the profits of the big corporations? Will the government be prepared to benefit the health of the nation and the pockets of poorer people? Whatever the answers it’s ‘Thought for Food’.

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