Coffee House

The hunger Games

12 August 2012

One million children at risk of starvation in Niger; global food inflation last year of approximately 6 per cent; political instability linked to food price rises; drought in the US forcing corn prices up by 23 per cent; and more trouble down the road with Russia possibly banning wheat exports after failed harvests. Food is a very hot topic.

The Prime Minister is right to use the Olympics to focus on global hunger. But while the main focus of this summit must be to address the problem in poor countries, it’s important to remember that food poverty exists in every country – rich and poor – in the UK as well as Somalia. Food banks are emerging in our cities, and charities like Fair Share are becoming part of daily life in our most deprived communities. In 2010, public health officials calculated that malnutrition costs the NHS £13bn.


Food policy fell off the political agenda in Britain 20 years ago. Little by little, this Government is making some progress in restoring its importance. But there is a long way to go and few are formulating policy to address the impact of rising food prices.

It is not just families who will be affected. Prices are predicted to increase 6-7 per cent year-on-year; this will have a massive impact on inflation and our benefits bill, with price hikes already responsible for some of the 5.2 per cent increase in the bill last year. And our import levels – the largest in the developed world – expose us to currency volatility and export bans.

The same medicine used to address global food poverty needs to be applied here. We must increase food production and overcome our squeamishness to modified crops. And we need to change our habits. From wasting 30 per cent of all food produced, we must take food more seriously and provide greater support to families who have become less and less resilient to price rises. Families up and down the country have forgotten how to cook, how to make food go further, and are reliant on junk food that is expensive and un-nutritional. Food is as important as exercise in keeping us healthy, so perhaps the Olympics legacy in schools should concentrate on cooking and nutrition as well as sport.

Laura Sandys is the Conservative MP for South Thanet.

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  • Billy Corr

    The claim that a million – or two million – picanninies in the Sahel are in danger of death by starvation tells us that their mums and dads have been over-procreating and that the Grim Reaper is stepping in to set things right.

    As for malnutrition in Britain, surely the parallel claim is that millions of Britons are suffering from obesity. A government-sponsored programme of matching skinnies with fatties ought to balance things out!

  • Billy Corr

    The claim that a million – or two million – picanninies in the Sahel are in danger of death by starvation tells us that their mums and dads have been over-procreating and that the Grim Reaper is stepping in to set things right.

    As for malnutrition in Britain, surely the parallel claim is that millions of Britons are suffering from obesity. A government-sponsored programme of matching skinnies with fatties ought to balance things out!

  • james102

    As I ask above how can you have famine and population
    increases on the scale we have seen in Africa?

    The Irish famine of the mid-19th century, when
    the potato crop failed due to a fungal blight, resulted in such a population decrease,
    due to death from disease and starvation coupled with migration, that its
    population is still. I believe, below that prior to 1845.

  • Baron

    Richard SB, listen to this, all factual, just check, it’s all on
    the Net, in 1984 Michael Buerke of
    the BBC went to Ethiopia – the country had just over 42mn people, average
    income $190 – sent a plea back ‘please, help over 1mn people are starving here’,
    the concerned Irish pop idol shouted ‘give us your fugging money’, hundreds millions dollars flooded in as aid, assistance, loans, Baron got seduced, too, the
    same Buerke went there again in 2004 – the country’s population was then over
    70mn, average income $108 – sent
    another plea to the West ‘please, help, six million people are starving, fed by
    international aid each year’.

    Baron reckons if the BBC guy still with us
    in 2024 he may well go to Ethiopia again, the country will have a population of
    around 100mn, average income some $50, he’ll sent back another urgent plea ‘do
    help, over 20mn people starving here, live on aid agency food only’….

    You reckon, sir, Baron’s wrong?

    • Richard Stanford Brown

      Admittedly I only checked wikipedia but there I saw your statistics broadly confirmed. But what is your point? I don’t see that the growing population of Ethiopia directly effects me living as I do most of the time in the Cotswolds. It is not currently a concern of mine. I certainly do not advocate forced population reduction.

      I have no problem whatsoever myself with the BBC or any other body ASKING me to donate to feed starving children wherever they may be born, only a problem with the state forcing me to, at the expense of the living standards of my own children.

      Returning to the article, I do not accept the need for GM crops or food stamps in Britain, I would suggest agricultural diversity, more small farms, local produce, the removal of subsidies, general fiscal austerity, lower taxes and massively increased food production. Africa is ultimately the responsibility of Africans and I find it extremely arrogant to assume Europeans know best how to run the affairs of others, especially given the economic mess across this continent.

  • james102

    Unless priority is given to reducing the African population
    then we are merely treating the symptoms and leaving the disease.

    Birth control and financial incentives for women to be
    sterilised should be funded and food aid should also be dependent on population
    control policies.

  • anyfool

    If the white man had not banned cannibalism Africans could feed themselves.

  • anyfool

    What is junk food, Big Mac meal, 100% beef patty, bread bun, chipped potatoes and vegetables are definitely not, the only junk food is stuff you buy take a taste and bin it, the generic name of this garbage is health foods.

  • Archimedes

    If you take a look at the statistics, you’ll find that food wastage has been dropping rapidly since 2008. Why? Because people are eating more of that efficiently produced junk food you speak of…

  • Axstane

    Ms. Sandys

    In the past 10 years the population of Niger has inceased by a fraction under 60%. Neither the Uk nor any other agency can feed a population which increases at such a rate.

    Neither this government nor the previous one have made any effort at all at creating food self-sufficiency even in the UK. In fact, such a situation has not existed for over 130 years when nutritional standards were lower and the consumption was less per capita – the average height of WWI conscripts was just 5’4″ and weight 126 lbs.

    I am not a EUphobe but the CAP which encourages farmers to set aside land on which no food is produced is one of the most cynical policies ever introduced in a peace-time situation.

    So, the problems are there but the solutions are not. Irrespective of what we do children will die of starvation in Africa, in Asia and in South America. Your father was an eminently practical man who would have instinctively known these things.

  • Austin Barry

    Enough already with the ‘Olympic Legacy’. Unctuous nonsense to make us believe that economic and social realities will be magically transformed because a few domestic monomaniacs beat foreign monomaniacs at some pointless sporting events. Anyone who speaks of the ‘Olympic Legacy’ should be given a gold medal for bullshit and then condemned to spend the rest of their lives pedalling around the M25 in Wiggins cast-off Lycra.

    • Frank P

      Best comment since this unjustified profligate use of taxpayers money and lottery funding commenced. Your second sentence is worthy of a Pulitzer prize, Brilliant!
      Your third sentence is beyond praise. I doff my nightcap, sir. Now I can retire to my pit, chuckling, with the horror of the last four hours completely erased by your wit, which I assume was produced under the influence of Laphroaig, administered as an anesthetic before the ‘show’ in anticipation of what was predictable and inevitable. Thank you so much.

    • dercavalier

      Excellent post

  • Hexhamgeezer

    I wonder how many marks this would get as a GCSE assessment?: Probably quite a lot as it symplistically parrots a sub-Guardian train of ‘thought’,
    I’ll give Ms Sandys an A for this one.

  • M74

    Perhaps then, we should oppose proposals to relax planning consents, and stop any further reduction in our productive green belt land which will be used for housing our unbelievable continuation of ” open house” policy towards unproductave immigrants.

  • Barnehurst Bob

    I agree with both William Blakes Ghost and Alexsandr. CAP and CFP have be ruinous. The Irish sea was one of the most fertile fishing grounds in europe. Not any more, factory ships with no allegiance to either country have moved in and destroyed it in the name of unity. Meanwhile, fields lie fallow, or set aside, or empty, take your pick, to appease inefficiant farmers in europe.

    I do grow my own veg, a curved cucumber tastes the same as a straight one. If you’ve ever bought a ready made sandwich you’ll know this.

  • Wilhelm

    Why are Africans having so many children when they don’t have the money to feed them ? This is unsustainable.

    ” One million children are starving in Niger.”

    Famine is Gods way or call it natural law of population control, if we save them, they in turn will have 2 or 3 million children and we will have to feed them and so the vicious cycle goes on. We should not intervene.

    In 1950 the white population of the world was 25 % the black 9 %.
    In 2010 the white population of the world is 9 % the black 25 %

    • Richard Stanford Brown

      Where are those figures from?

    • Gypsy Beth DragonOak

      You are a racist arse! God does not have anything to do with your sick demented hate: Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. Heres more since you obviously speak for God, you should have the correct information

      • David Ossitt

        “open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient
        for his need in whatever he lacks”

        Spot on the operative word is ‘lend’ but this aid is not a
        loan it is a constant and continuing gift and should be stopped.

        If you are going to quote the bible “Matthew 26:11, The poor
        you will always have with you.

  • Gina Dean

    With amount of money thrown at poverty in Africa there still is no end in sight of hunger. With no inferstructure in the land to supply the food aid to all parts of a country, all it does is sit in warehouses at ports rotting and feeding the rats. It is time the countries involved sorted out there own problem of how to feed there people. If they can afford to have an army and supply guns and ammo to fight the wars that they have been involved in for decades then it is time they did some thing for the people. For decades we have had poverty in the third world on our screens. Nothing seems to get better for the people. If we sent out the expertise in water bores and irrigation to try to combat the lack of water in drought areas to keep the people fed would be a better use of money.

  • Wilhelm

    Why is Africa poor ?

    Just as American blacks blame whites for their failures, Africans deny responsibility for the misery they bring on themselves.

    Black Africa is the poorest part of the world by far. It is in Africa that we find countries like Zaire, Ethiopia, Chad, and the Sudan, where gross national product per person is less than $200 a year. The 41 nations of sub-Saharan Africa produce no more wealth than the tiny country of Belgium, which has only one forty-fifth as many people. Of all of the region’s economic production, white-run South Africa accounts for three quarters.

    Numbers like these mean that Africans live in misery so desperate that Americans can scarcely imagine it. Every year, thousands of Africans die of starvation. In bad years, hundreds of thousands starve. Even in tropical parts of Africa untouched by famine, as many as one third of all children die before the age of five. One in a hundred births kills the mother. Malaria, sleeping sickness, hepatitis, leprosy, and AIDS are rampant.

    Nevertheless, the population of Africa grows faster than that of any other region of the world. The total number of children, grand children, and great-grand children that the average American woman will have is 14. The equivalent figure for the average African woman is 258! Despite the ravages of disease, starvation, and inter-tribal warfare, Africa’s population increases by more than three percent a year. At that rate, populations can double in 20 years.

    • Barnehurst Bob

      The British empire ran most of Africa at a profit, otherwise it would have left the unprofitable parts. It installed railways and other infrastructure to maximise those profits. When the Africans got independance they got to keep the infrastructure and a ‘going concern’ where none existed before. We’ve been supporting them ever since. If they can’t do it after that golden legacy when will we accept we’re flogging a dead horse?

      • HFC

        Er, didn’t the Germans, Belgians, French, Italians, Portuguese and Spaniards also have something to do with colonialism in Africa, too?

    • alexsandr

      so what do we do? send then container loads of condoms or contraceptive pills or go round doing vasectomy on all the men?

      • Wilhelm

        Not a bad idea, I’ve always wondered why Africans have so many children. The African is not considered a real man unless he has 6 or 7 children. If he doesn’t have any children he might be called a homosexual, a great taboo / crime in their so called ” culture. ”

        • Stephen Collins

          Nicking this from Yahoo Answers:
          “Children are valuable as farm workers, important when most people live on the land (so large families are encouraged).

          � Many children die young (even more so in Africa because of AIDS) and this encourages large families to try and ensure some children survive to become adults.

          �With a lack of state pensions/ social security, children are required to look after their parents in old age.

          �The limited contraception and tradition for large families (supported by Roman Catholics and Islam) also contribute to the high birth rate.”

          There’s your answer.

      • james102

        Population reduction based on sterilising men is not really
        going to work as one man can impregnate a lot of women.

        Give women a cash incentive to have a birth control implant?

        I still can’t square famine and population increases.

      • David Ossitt

        No stop all aid.

    • alexsandr

      your link is undated and the author is a pseudonym. Why should it have credence?

    • Daniel Maris

      Wilhelm • 3 hours ago −+Flag as inappropriateWhy is Northern Europe poor ?Just as the fair haired Visigoths among us blame we Romans for their failures, the Germans and Goths outside our borders deny responsibility for the misery they bring on themselves. Northern Europe is the poorest part of the world by far. It is in Northern Europe that we find countries like Gotland and the lands of the Angles, the Saxons and Jutes where people live huddled together in mud huts. The whole of the land of the Goths – a vast expanse – produce no more wealth than the single province of Egypt, which has only one forty-fifth as many people. Of all of the region’s economic production, it is only those areas closest to Roman rule which are in any way productive. Meanwhile, despite their poverty the ignorant Germanic peoples who know nothing of fine buildings, water sanitation, luxuries such as baths and all the other blessings of civilisaiton, continue to reproduce at an alarming rate, expecting us to allow them to settle here.

  • Wilhelm

    Why is Africa poor ? ( answer, because it’s full of Africans.

    Africa is blessed with a great bounty but because the inhabitants have low IQs of 67 they can not harness it. Before the Europeans turned up there was no written language or calendar, no one had built a two storey building or mechanical device or the wheel.!

    • Ron Todd


      • Wilhelm

        There’s always one, isn’t there ? I’m talking about Sub Saharan Africa, you know Bantu’s, but you knew that anyway

        • Ron Todd

          Yes I thought you did and I know not everybody south of the sahara is a Bantu.

    • Richard Stanford Brown

      Wrong and wrong. The Pyramids of Giza. The Nsibidi language of Nigeria. That’s just for starters. European Colonialists destroyed a great number of artefacts pertaining to the history of Africa hence such delusions persist. I too am for self-sustaining nations rather than unsustainable forced redistribution of wealth but your racist hyperbole is of no use to a serious conversation.

      • Wilhelm

        Richard Stanford Brown

        See that rather fetching pink towel you’re wearing round your neck on your Facebook page, where did you get it, Nigeria ?

        • Richard Stanford Brown

          From Brazil. I believe it’s still there.

    • Gypsy Beth DragonOak

      And exactly how did we measure their IQ? Were there questions about tribal history, or how many buckets of water does the cooking pot take??? And then the Europeans came and gave them what > progress, language, a whole new culture? Hmmm they were probably happy and not starving before that.

  • Daniel Maris

    Genetically modifing food is asking for trouble and there is no need to do it.
    We can increase food production through polytunnels, better irrigation where necessary, farm towers, bringing marginal land into use and claiming land from the sea (as the Dutch have done of course).

  • Gizabel

    What is this shit
    Do you read what you write
    The last paragraph is the most illiterate nonsense I have seen on speccie

  • alexsandr

    we have to be educated that not all food is perfect
    I have just dug some spuds out of our garden. all different sizes and shapes so 50% of them no use to supermarkets.
    but perfectly edible and nice.

    • Coffeehousewall

      I think that it is only supermarkets who think that all food should be the same size, shape and colour. Most people I know understand that food is natural and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. If the supermarkets didn’t demand it then I don’t think customers would.

      • Richard Stanford Brown

        Sadly not, in my experience at least. I was for years the primary buyer of fruit and vegetables for an independent supermarket. It was very clear that not only did the majority of our customers not like odd shapes but that also they did not like unwashed items such as carrots and spuds, which is a great shame because the washed products have a significantly shorter shelf-life, thus causing an increase in waste. Similarly, despite the fashion to claim otherwise, most people seem to prefer to buy vegetables in packaging.

      • Alexsandr

        straight cucumbers fit into boxes easier for transportation. We have lost the ability to grow things for local consumption, which is why we see English orchards unpicked and shops full of foreign apples.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    The Prime Minister is right to use the Olympics to focus on global hunger.

    Well it’s the first I’ve heard about it. Another failure by the Downing Street communications machine.

    We must increase food production and overcome our squeamishness to modified crops.

    So then the CAP and CFP will be abolished and we will be able to put all that land back into use and control our waters again? Won’t that upset our ‘little friends’ in Brussels?

    Sadly once again we have a Tory ‘Roon’ sycophant (who has only rebelled persistently over what times the HoC should sit) banging the drum and waving her pom poms with no sign of actually doing anything substantive about it.

    Having read previous of Sandys articles that’s about the sum of her abilities. Writing cheerleader nonsense/ obvious ‘Ides of march’ ominous warnings with. no insight. no ideas and no substance.

    Perhaps Laura Sandys should be genetically modified and then perhaps she might be able to write more than this lame empty ‘red-top’ style propaganda

    • Ron Todd

      He was on the telly a while back ‘consulting’ with David Beckam air brushed underpants model and expert on global ecconomics.

    • james102

      How can you have a population explosion and famine?

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