The room filled up as people came together to hear former Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Darfur, Ambassador Jan Eliasson speak last night at the Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego. Eliasson’s lecture titled “Armed Conflict: The Cost to Civilians” was both insightful and surprisingly hopeful given the subject. Having just returned from eastern Africa, I could not help but think about how people from these areas are finding food, especially in the wake of President Bashir’s ousting of aid groups from Darfur.
With food prices increasing, and charitable giving decreasing, it’s hard to imagine what can be done to make sure that people have access to food in these situations. Then I learned that some of our elected officials are actually doing something to address the issue, which is good considering that most of us are too busy trying to figure out how to pay our own bills.
Here in the states, food issues are a daily conversation. Being from California, we were both happy to see that our state’s first lady, Maria Shriver, has taken a cue from Michelle Obama, and will be planting a vegetable garden at the Governor’s residence.
We appreciate the symbolic action, but are also curious as to the future of eating in our country when a report released today, by government investigators, shows that most food manufacturers and distributors can’t trace the suppliers of the ingredients in their products. In addition, another report from the University of California and Columbia University shows that when fast food chains are near schools, children are more likely to be obese.
While these reports may affirm what we already suspected, we were surprised to see that some people have begun to buy their groceries in food auctions, others are taking cues from the 99 Cent Chef, and at least one person is brazenly taking government assistance and writing about it for The Village Voice. And while I found his most recent post “The Upper White Trash” entertaining, I find myself feeling torn between last night’s lecture and his experience.
The circumstances people face are so varied, and so complex, that it’s difficult to sort through everything and reconcile it all.