The Revolution beyond the Food Revolution Special Session

by Lily Zhang, Senior, North Allegheny High School

“Think about how food issues are affecting your community – NOW,” Jamie Oliver urged delegates to begin the Food Revolution Special Session of the One Young World Summit. While Oliver’s charge was taken up by a panel of experts including UPMC Senior Medical Director Dr. Michael Parkinson and Harvard University’s Department of Nutrition Professor Eilis O’Reily who spoke about the problems facing the food industry and their efforts to combat them, the true dialogue among delegates happened afterwards—ironically during lunchtime.

Matt Bremner, a delegate from the UK, actually lives in Jamie Oliver’s hometown of Cambridge. He noted that while there were many inspirational speeches given, he would have liked to see a focus more on personal responsibility. Additionally, he believes that the food crisis does not exist in a vacuum. “I wanted to ask how these discussions on food were also linked to sport…because I think you need a mixture of both nutrition and sport.” The latter proves a problem in the UK, Bremner added, because generally, “if you’re not the best at the sport, they turn their backs on you.”

Another delegate, Zafarbek Sulaimanov from Kyrgystan, explained that in his country, the crisis is more of a financial problem. In fact, his nation does not even have McDonald’s. “The gap between the middle and lower class is huge,” he states. Thus while the middle class enjoys great variety in the foods they eat, the lower class primarily relies on the food they farm themselves. Although the food they garden is sufficient for survival, they “deserve more and a diversity of food.”

In Vietnam, the paradigm is quite different. There is an ever-quickening spread of fast food, which has proved very appealing to people. But perhaps the most pressing issue in the nation is the toxicity of the food farmed. Often, chemicals are used to preserve the food without knowledge of the harmful side effects. Thus, delegate Linh Tran from Vietnam expressed the need to “educate the farmers to keep food safe.”

South Africa experiences yet another issue. While obesity is not a major concern, as civilians participate in much “unintentional exercise” simply by walking to and from places, delegate Claude Moshobane describes unintentional food contamination. Most farms lay near the river, but so do many mines. There is a problem with acid mine drainage in the river area; the pollution and acid from upstream eventually reach the farm products downstream. Thus, there have been cases where oranges exported from South Africa have heavy metal pollution, and such contamination affects many other food products.

As these delegates show, the food crisis is far from one-dimensional. In order to truly create a revolution like the one that Jamie Oliver calls for, nations around the world must address specific issues; it is only with focus to the particular details of the issue that a successful food revolution will occur.

1 Comment

  • Elianna Paljug

    Great article Lily! You effectively capture the complexity of the issue, and show how the Food Revolution needs to be realistic instead of idealistic. Good job! 🙂

    15 Nov

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