Monday, September 28, 2015

Creating Change in a Hungry World

Second International Conference on Global Food Security

by Kevin Markey, Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, excerpted from La Papillote

I love food, and without assumption I think it is safe to say that all of us here at the CIA, love food. We love cooking it, we love eating it, and we probably hate how much we love to waste away hours on Instagram just looking at it...I love to eat a lot. I feel hungry every few hours. But am I really hungry? Am I…starving?

Yes, this is an article about hunger. And, yes, you could just stop reading now because that would be the easy thing to do. You could also throw away that day-old bread or milk just-past-the-expiration-date, because those are the easy things to do. But what I am here to learn more about is not only how that extra food at night's end can be re-utilized, but how food professionals can feed more people in the first place.

World hunger is a very complex issue and the number one argument that I am met with here at school is: “Why is it my problem?” A lot of students came here to learn how to cook great food, but what happens in the food runs out? What happens when there are not only no more heirloom tomatoes or Bluefin Tuna, but no more corn or soy or rice? The greatest of chefs will profess that they are only as good as their ingredients. But could the day come when there are no more quality ingredients to be had because instead of sustainability we chose profit? Think about it: menu selection influence the global market, and how the world spends its money is the driving force for change.

One of the events that eventually led to my decision to come here to the CIA happened way back in 2006. I was in Namibia, a country in southwestern Africa. Every day I would go to the school to teach English to mostly orphan students, between the ages of eight and eighteen. All in the same class, all learning the same level of English (2nd-3rd grade equivalency). They could have been out working, most had night jobs, even the eight-year-olds. But instead they were spending precious time learning something that would help them achieve higher results in the future. The light-bulb moment for me, however, came at lunch time. I watched as women took a 5-pound bag of powder and dropped it into a five-gallon pot of water and made a soupy, pasty, off-yellow muck. While apparently very high in nutritious value, it tasted of kerosene and mud. This was the one meal that most of these children were going to eat that day, every day. They came to school so they could be fed.

This is the point in the article that I bombard you with stats about lack of crop diversity and hunger in undeveloped countries versus developed ones. But not only are those numbers scary, they are just numbers with no connection. There are only two numbers that I think really matter: 7,300,000,000 and 9,000,000,000. The first is how many mouths there are to feed in the world right now. And the second is how many there will be in 2050. This is the number one issue that food experts are concerned about. The planet’s resources are already wearing thin, what will a food shortage look like with nine billion people on Earth? This isn’t a local issue, it isn’t an American issue, and it isn’t a government issue or anybody else’s problem. This will be a global event. Every person in the world will have something to say if the food runs out. And they won’t be saying it quietly either.

So in the spirit of making change possible, come October 11-14, 2015, I will be attending the Second International Conference on Global Food Security at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. As a delegate representing the CIA, I will aim to present the challenges that the culinary field will aspire to face and overcome in the future. This four-day conference will host some of the world’s leading experts on food security as well as industry professionals who agree that changes to the current system are a necessity.

My intent in attending this conference is to learn from, as well as collaborate with, the people that have made it their life mission to save lives. I will go to seminars and speeches and listen to many ideas about how we as food industry professionals can change the world. This is the reason I came here to the CIA; to make a difference, to do something that will impact as many people around the world as possible. Remain optimistic folks, we can make a difference, and we can create change. We just have to be willing to accept those chances in ourselves.