The food crisis never really went away but because of political, environmental and financial factors the cost of food is nearly at the same levels as 2008. Remember 2008? I do. I bought a 25lb bag of King Arthur Four for 11.oo in January of that year, by the end of February the same bag was 21.00. Oil would later become 147.00 a barrel and the economy collapsed. Many,many folks lost their jobs, had hours reduced, lost benefits or did not get raises. The social safety net was stretched.
In developing countries the effects were even more harsh. Some countries stopped exporting rice, causing the price to rise even further. Haiti and other countries had food riots.
Corn went to 7 dollars a bushel and suddenly we realized the food products used as fuels causes food to become expensive. The relationship between food and oil finally became a mainstream reality. The idea of the 150o mile salad took on a more menacing reality as food security slipped through the fingers of more people.
Nearly 3 years later, revolutions are being fought and won by the spark of hunger.
This is the global reality in developing countries but western societies will be challenged by the food crisis this time as well. In early 2008 a lot more people had a lot more money and jobs. Unemployment is still at 9%. This is the number of folks still looking for work. The actual number is closer to 16% if you count discourage workers, part time workers who want full time. That's a lot of hurting.
In addition to an economic recovery that does not seem to be reaching many folks there are austerity measures from every level of government threatening the very weave of the social safety net. From heating assistance for the poor to The Woman, Infant and Children's nutrition program these vital services are under attack.
I do not want to get on my soap box too much here. It would be easy to debate the morality of a society that bails out big bankers at the expense of those most needy; and there are a lot more needy.
Instead I think it is time to think globally but act locally.
So here is my challenge, Plant a Row. In my state of Maine and many other states, the cooperative extension sponsors a Plant-A-Row program. Farmer's and Gardener's Pledge to plant a row of fresh vegetables and donate it to food bank or soup kitchen.
My thinking is that the challenge will begin in March. Some folks will be able to start their gardens in March, some of us in the northern reaches are still dreaming of gardening. But it is a good time of year to plan. The challenge will go through the whole growing season. For the coming month I would like folks to start planning. This could include researching the plant-a -row program in your own state, choosing a crop or crops that you would like to grow. If you do not have a garden maybe you can discover alternatives in your community. Perhaps there is a community garden that donates the food to low-income folks in your community. If you don't have a garden but would like to participate in the challenge, maybe you could explore opportunities to volunteer at local food pantries or soup kitchens. Do you have cooking skills or food preservation skills you can share? Do you know a family who could use some assistance getting a small garden started? If you have a container garden maybe you could plant a couple extra pots of greens or tomatoes. Every little bit helps.
As for help, I would like to make a nifty button you can post on your blog, if there are any tech savvy folks out there that could lend assistance I would be most grateful.
So, if you would like to join please leave a comment to this post. I will create a widget listing the participants at the side bar. I will check back mid- March for an update at which time you can either post your up-date or link to your update.
Please Spread the Word!