(Not-so-)Happy World Food Day!

Fao

Today is World Food Day. Or World Food Week. Or World Food Month, depending on which country you’re living in. This year the event, which has been taking place since 1980, centres on the theme of ‘The Right To Food’ and is held each year on the anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s foundation in 1945.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation has recognised the right to food as a major target since 1996 when it incorporated the statement ‘it is the right to feed oneself with dignity rather than the right to be fed’ into its portfolio of rights. Importantly, World Food Day 2007 is not about aid.

The events, which range from a candlelit vigil that will move across the world’s time zones from Samoa; public ceremonies and political round-table discussions to ‘Run-for-Food’ races taking place next week in Rome, Guinea and Nigeria, to name but a handful. Spain has organised a month of events; Egypt has organised a 10-day Arab music festival in recognition of the FAO’s fight against hunger; while Mali’s week of fundraising and awareness culminates in a concert to be attended by African FAO Goodwill Ambassadors. The FAO itself will be holding its official event at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday.

But sometimes the most poignant demonstrations are the simplest. The FAO has issued its World Hunger Map in an animated format, covering the available statistics of the percentage of each country’s population the remains undernourished. The map above gives the average values for 2002-4, but the animation shows how food insecurity is a dynamic problem. While north western Europe, Australia, North America and Japan stay a pale lemon colour, the rest of the world seems to have be fluctuating between various shades of orange and dark red. It looks like the problems just aren’t being solved effectively.

Searching the CABAbstracts database revealed several interesting histories behind some of the map’s colour changes over the 3 ½ decades it covers. Optimistically, the thesaurus lists ‘food security’ and not ‘food insecurity’ as a term; but bearing this in mind, you can have a look at pretty much anywhere in the world in more detail and find suggestions as to the reasons why the food insecurity map is neither monochrome nor static. Have a go; it’s amazing what you can find…

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