web analytics
The Standard

The politics of food: Oxfam report

Written By: - Date published: 11:08 am, January 16th, 2014 - 10 comments
Categories: capitalism, climate change, cost of living, health, paula bennett, poverty, sustainability - Tags: ,

Oxfam has published a report on food (in)security, ranking countries on measures of such food availability, prices, and nutritional content, as well as the stability of such characteristics.  Overseas reports focus on how badly the UK (ranked 13),  US (#21) and Japan (#21) have done, coming in 32rd behind a raft of European countries and Australia.  NZ is ranked equal with Israel and just ahead of Brazil, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary and Canada.

While the NAct government is crowing about some positive general statistics about the state of the economy, looking in more detail shows that all is not well.  Paula Bennett is claiming that statistics show people are spending less time than previously on benefits.  But this does not account for people on zero incomes, or on very low incomes.  The basis of Bennett’s claims has been disputed:

Ms Bennett says $4.4 billion of that reduction is because fewer people are going onto benefits and more are coming off them.

But an associate professor of economics at Auckland University, Susan St John, says lifetime liability is an estimated sum, and countless variables and assumptions have been made.

“We don’t know how to assess that four-point-four billion because it’s not an annual figure. It’s a figure that reflects lifetime cost, and it sounds like a very large figure but we haven’t got any context for it.”

The same goes for statistics about the general state of the economy, where things are claimed to be looking great for businesses.

In the Oxfam food security study, even within the top ranked countries, such as Netherlands at number 1, everything is not rosy.  A noticeable proportion of people visit food banks.  On Al Jazeera’s TV news this morning, they singled out the UK austerity policies as having a significant impact on a high level of food insecurity within a section of the population: many are going hungry, or scrabbling for food amongst other people’s rubbish.

Time Magazine reports, “And the best place in the world to eat is…

Atop the list proudly sits the Netherlands. France and Switzerland tie for second place, but the United States doesn’t even make the top 20.

The report looks not only at food security and access to calories, but includes metrics like the cost of food, the nutritional quality of food, access to safe drinking water, and unhealthy eating habits.

This last metric—unhealthy eating measured via the prevalence of diabetes and obesity—is what undoes the U.S., which scores highly on other metrics like nutritional diversity and the cost of food. According to Oxfam’s data, the U.S. is tied with Egypt and Saudi Arabia for the title of second most obese country on the list, behind Kuwait.

[…]

The bigger picture that emerges out of the report is that both sides of the list—the best and worst places to eat on earth—are connected.

“The food system is global. Policies and practices in countries like the Netherlands and the United States do have an impact,” Oxfam Senior Researcher Deborah Hardoon told TIME. “We know that there is enough food in the world and yet still one in eight people go hungry today.”

The report blames lack of investment in small-scale agriculture in the developing world, unbalanced trade agreements, biofuel production that diverts crops from food to fuel, and the impact of climate change on food production.

The problem is not as simple as rich people in rich countries leaving too little for the poorest of the poor: The U.S. isn’t elbowing Chad away from the macaroni at the dinner table. In rich countries, like the U.S., obesity and diabetes tend to be disproportionately common among the poor. In effect, it is the poor, whether in the Netherlands, France, Ethiopia or Chad, who bear the brunt of dysfunction in the global food economy, Hardoon said.

“It demonstrates a broken system,” she said.

Using obesity as a measure of unhealthy food is questionable as some very healthy sports people get rated as being in the obese range.  The diabetes rate is a better measure.

The data is available on an excel sheet on Oxfam America’s web site.

Some comparisons:

OVERALL RANKING

# 1 Netherlands

#8 Australia

#12 UK

#21 US & Japan

#23 NZ & Israel

AFFORD TO EAT

Price Level of Food – Food Price Inflation Volatility

# 1 Netherlands: 6 – 7

#8 Australia: 19-3

#12 UK: 21-6

#21 US: 11-1

#21 Japan: 52-1

#23 NZ: 24-6

# 23 Israel: 24-7

FOOD QUALITY

Nutritional Diversity – Access to Safe Water

# 1 Netherlands: 3-0

#8 Australia: 5-0

#12 UK: 16-0

#21 US: 3-2

#21 Japan: 31-0

#23 NZ: 9-0

#23 Israel: 21-0

UNHEALTHY EATING

Diabetes – Obesity

# 1 Netherlands: 9-25

#8 Australia: 23-37

#12 UK: 18-37

#21 US: 36-46

#21 Japan: 16-6

#23 NZ: 32-39

#23  Israel: 26-36

NZ scores particularly badly on price level of food, and diabetes and obesity (healthy eating).  It also is not doing well on the nutritional diversity (food quality) measure.  Lack of access to nutritious and affordable food impacts on mental health, causing a high level of distress.

Most importantly the Oxfam report shows how the access to adequate food is not just a problem for individual countries.  The production and distribution of adequate food supplies are part of a globally connected system.  Australia’s ABC site reports:

Oxfam said the latest figures show 840 million people go hungry every day, despite there being enough food for the hungry.

It called for changes in the way food is produced and distributed around the world.

The causes of hunger, it added, include a lack of investment in infrastructure in developing nations and in small-scale agriculture, security, prohibitive trading agreements, biofuel targets that divert crops from food to fuel and the impact of climate change.

food affordability

10 comments on “The politics of food: Oxfam report”

  1. johnm 1

    The Politics of food indeed!
    The U$k continues down the plug hole of neoliberal madness abusing their most vulnerable:
    “Poverty is increasing, homelessness is increasing, over 500,000 use Food banks regularly. Some are even asking the foodbanks to leave food that has to be cooked out of their parcel, as they cannot afford to use the fuel it would take to cook it.
    These figures are the tip of the iceberg and do not cover the ones the authorities don’t get to see: those getting help from their pensioner parents, those who turn to shoplifting, etc. (also on the increase). ”

    “‘Absolute poverty’ of Victorian age has returned to the UK, says Labour MP ”

    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/absolute-poverty-of-victorian-age-has-returned-to-the-uk-says-labour-mp-9057327.html

    “As an admirer of Victorian values, Mrs Thatcher often spoke in glowing terms of voluntarism and its links with enterprise and liberty. In an important speech to the Zurich Economic Society while in opposition in 1977, she told her audience that “the Victorian era — the heyday of free enterprise in Britain — was also the era of the rise of selflessness and benefaction”.” And as noted the Victorian era she respected so much was the era of absolute poverty and workhouses and transportation for life for stealing a loaf of bread! The current Tory scum regime are taking her legacy to the extreme.

    Relevance to NZ? We know Pullya Benefit is assiduously taking points from Pommy social reformers as noted by Xtasy. Prisoners of the Motherland will no longer be able to escape to Australia which has closed its borders to economic refugees.

    • johnm 1.1

      “As long as states apply all their resources to their vain and violent schemes of expansion, thus incessantly obstructing the slow and laborious efforts of their citizens to cultivate their minds, and even deprive them of all support in these efforts, no progress in this direction can be expected. For a long internal process of careful work on the part of each commonwealth is necessary for the education of its citizens. But all good enterprises which are not grafted on to a morally good attitude of mind are nothing but illusion and outwardly glittering misery.”
      — Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History; Seventh Proposition; trans. Allen Wood

  2. tracey 2

    s is why greens and labour and anyone else has to keep repeating, good news for who?

    the 50% of hard working kiwis earning less than $30,000 per year?

  3. blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 3

    Thanks for the information, Karol

    Another angle of scarcity of food: financial speculation on food by the very wealthiest of our world, so they can ‘make money on their money:

    http://science.time.com/2012/12/17/betting-on-hunger-is-financial-speculation-to-blame-for-high-food-prices/

    There is a debate as to how much this speculation really affects prices – I guess that will only be concluded once we have gotten rid of this system.

    http://www.neurope.eu/article/financial-speculation-raises-global-food-prices

    Laissez-faire capitalism has to go – it is criminal what is going on.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Laissez-faire capitalism has to go – it is criminal what is going on.

      QFT

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        it’s no longer laissez faire capitalism – it’s highly interventionist, crony klepto-capitalism.

        • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.1

          Are you sure there’s a difference?

          Over the last few decades in the rise of laissez faire capitalism we’ve seen ever more cronyism. It seems to me that the two go hand in hand. The government deregulates while giving their preferred recipients more and more taxpayer money through government contracts (the myth of the private sector always being better) and corporate welfare (we need to save these jobs).

          • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 3.1.1.1.1

            +1 Draco

            Dropping regulations simply allows the lowest common denominator in ethical standards to gain the upper hand. Corruption flourishes as a consequence.

  4. Will@Welly 4

    Growing up in NZ many years ago, Coke and the likes was a treat, now because of “pricing”, it is an everyday occurrence. Also the introduction of the “2 minute noodles”, something virtually unheard of 20 odd years ago, both these are high energy, low nutrition foods, yet they are often staples in so many families. How did we get so f**ked?

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      A long road to serfdom for the bottom 50%, the next 30% barely holding their own, and the top 20% moving ahead.

      With the top 1% to 2% overall making out like absolute bandits.

      In other words, a plutocracy, transforming into a kleptocracy, with more than a hint of neo-feudal preparation creeping in.

      tl:dr we have forgotten to be our brothers’ keeper.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Housing crisis hurting export growth
    If Steven Joyce wants to revive his failing export growth target he needs to make sure the Government gets to grips with the housing crisis, says David Parker, Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson. “Our exporters are struggling to compete… ...
    2 days ago
  • Gallipoli’s lesson: never forget, never repeat
     A special monument to one of our greatest war heroes should be a priority for the new Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, Labour Leader Andrew Little says.  “This will honour the spirit of Lieutenant Colonel William Malone, who led 760… ...
    2 days ago
  • Minister for who? Women, or Team Key?
    Louise Upston yesterday broke her silence on John Key’s repeated unwanted touching of a woman who works at his local café, to jump to the defence of her Boss. Upston repeated Key’s apology but, according to media reports “she refused… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 days ago
  • Taxpayer bucks backing US billionaire
    Kiwis will be horrified to know they are backing a Team Oracle subsidiary owned by a US billionaire, Labour’s Sports and Recreation spokesperson Trevor Mallard says. It has been revealed today that a Warkworth boat building company, which is wholly… ...
    3 days ago
  • English’s sins of omission: ‘Nothing left to be done’ on housing
    When Bill English said ‘there is nothing left to be done’ on the Auckland housing crisis he had overlooked a few things – a few things, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says.  “He’s right if you ignore: ...
    3 days ago
  • Climate change now hurts Kiwis
    Kiwis have twice been given timely and grave warnings on how climate change will hit them in their hip pockets this week, says Climate Change spokesperson Megan Woods.  “The first is the closure of the Sanford mussel plant and the… ...
    3 days ago
  • Clean, green and chocolate!
    Like many people I absolutely love chocolate! But until recently I hadn’t given much thought to how it was grown and produced. Fair trade and ethical food production are core Green Party principles, so yesterday Steffan Browning and I were… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    3 days ago
  • National admits loan shark law not up to it
    National has admitted new laws to crack down on loan sharks, truck shops and dodgy credit merchants aren’t up to the task of protecting vulnerable consumers, Labour’s Commerce spokesperson Kris Faafoi says. “Paul Goldsmith has acknowledged the laws might just… ...
    3 days ago
  • Power and the Prime Minister
    I’d like to acknowledge the young woman* who has publically told her story. It was a very brave thing to do. She kept her story very simple and focussed on her experience of what happened. It told of unwanted attention… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    3 days ago
  • Extra holiday offers time to reflect
    The Mondayisation of Anzac Day provides New Zealanders with an opportunity to spend more time with their families and their communities, Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark says. “This is the first time legislation I introduced, to have Anzac and… ...
    3 days ago
  • More angst and anguish for red zone locals
    Local residents will be bitterly disappointed by the Government’s cherry picking of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding compensation for red zoned property owners, Labour Canterbury Earthquake Recovery spokesperson and Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson says. “Home owners have taken all… ...
    4 days ago
  • Australia shows why we need a sovereign wealth fund now
    Australia has not managed its great mining boom well, says HSBC’s chief economist for Australia and New Zealand, Paul Bloxham. When times are good, governments need to save for the bad times that will inevitably follow, and this can be… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    4 days ago
  • Pure Water- pure rip off
    New Zealanders’ rights to fresh water must be protected before commercial allocations are given, but the Government is allowing resources to be taken, says Kelvin Davis MP for Te Tai Tokerau.  “The Government needs to resolve the issue of water… ...
    4 days ago
  • Cabinet paper reveals weak case for Iraq deployment
    A heavily redacted copy of a Cabinet paper on New Zealand’s military deployment to Iraq reveals how weak the case is for military involvement in that conflict, says Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff.  The paper warns that given the failure… ...
    4 days ago
  • Malaysia’s booty is Kiwis’ lost homeownership dream
    It’s unsurprising the Auckland property market is so overheated when Malaysians are being told they can live large on Kiwi’s hard-earned rent money, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “A Malaysian property website lists nearly 4000 New Zealand houses and… ...
    4 days ago
  • Ministry’s food safety resources slashed to the bone
    The Ministry for Primary Industries’ failure to monitor toxic and illegal chemicals in red meat is a dereliction of duty, Labour’s Primary Industries and Food Safety spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “MPI compliance officer Gary Orr today admitted National’s much-vaunted super… ...
    4 days ago
  • Ministry must protect organic food industry
    The Ministry for Primary Industries must take urgent action to protect New Zealand’s $150 million organic food and beverage industry by establishing a certification regime, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “Despite working with Organics Aotearoa on the issue… ...
    5 days ago
  • Tony Abbott, indigenous rights, and refugees
    This week, Tony Abbott has visited Aotearoa New Zealand, bringing with him his racist policies against indigenous Australians and his appalling record on refugee detention camps. Abbott has launched a policy “to close” remote aboriginal communities, which is about as… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    5 days ago
  • PM’s housing outburst bizarre
    Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford has described the Prime Minister’s latest comments on the Auckland housing crisis as bizarre. “John Key is deep in denial. He must be one of the only people left who are not concerned about the risk… ...
    6 days ago
  • Deflation: Another economic headache linked to housing crisis
    National’s housing crisis is causing even further damage with the second consecutive quarter of deflation a genuine concern the Reserve Bank can do little about, as it focusses on Auckland house prices, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “This is… ...
    6 days ago
  • Pot calling the kettle black over fossil fuel subsidies.
    Over the weekend alongside nine other countries the New Zealand Government has endorsed a statement that supports eliminating inefficient subsidies on fossil fuels. Fossil fuel subsidies are a big driver of increasing emissions. Good on the Government for working internationally… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    6 days ago
  • At last – a common sense plan for Christchurch
    The Common Sense Plan for Christchurch released by The People’s Choice today is a welcome relief from the shallow debate about rates rises versus asset sales, Labour’s Christchurch MPs say. "Local residents – who have spent weeks trawling through the… ...
    1 week ago
  • National must lead by example on climate change
    The National Government must meet its own climate change obligations before it preaches to the rest of the world, Labour's Climate Change spokesperson Megan Woods says. "Calls today by Climate Change Minister Tim Groser for an end to fossil fuel… ...
    1 week ago
  • Biosecurity rethink a long time
    The Government has opened New Zealand’s borders to biosecurity risks and its rethinking of bag screening at airports is an admission of failure, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. Nathan Guy today announced a review of biosecurity systems in… ...
    1 week ago
  • Chinese rail workers must be paid minimum wage
    KiwiRail must immediately stop further Chinese engineers from working here until they can guarantee they are being paid the New Zealand minimum wage, Labour’s MP for Hutt South Trevor Mallard says. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment today released… ...
    1 week ago
  • Better consultation needed on Christchurch asset sales
    The Christchurch City Council (CCC) should be promoting wide and genuine public consultation on its draft ten year budget and plan given the serious implications for the city’s future of its proposed asset sales, outlined in the plan. Instead, it… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 week ago
  • ‘Healthy Families’ a good start but not enough to tackle obesity relate...
    Today the Government is making a the meal out of the launch of its ‘Healthy Families’ package to promote ‘healthier decisions’ and ‘changing mindsets’ over nutrition, physical activity and obesity. Great! The programme is based on a successful model from… ...
    GreensBy Kevin Hague MP
    1 week ago
  • ‘Healthy Families’ a good start but not enough to tackle obesity relate...
    Today the Government is making a the meal out of the launch of its ‘Healthy Families’ package to promote ‘healthier decisions’ and ‘changing mindsets’ over nutrition, physical activity and obesity. Great! The programme is based on a successful model from… ...
    GreensBy Kevin Hague MP
    1 week ago
  • No more sweet talk on obesity
    The Government should be looking at broader measures to combat obesity rather than re-hashing pre-announced initiatives, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.  “While it is encouraging to see the Government finally waking from its slumber and restoring a focus on… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government two-faced on zero-hour contracts
    The Government should look to ban zero-hour contracts in its own back yard before getting too high and mighty about other employers using them, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Information collated by Labour shows at least three district health… ...
    1 week ago
  • Scrutiny of battlefield deaths should continue
    As New Zealand troops head to Iraq under a shroud of secrecy, the Government is pushing ahead with legislation to remove independent scrutiny of incidents where Kiwi soldiers are killed in hostile action overseas, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says.… ...
    1 week ago
  • Damp-free homes a right for tenants
    Labour is urging tenants to use a little known rule which gives them the right to live in damp-free rental homes. Otago University researchers have today highlighted the Housing Improvement Regulations 1947 as a way tenants can force landlords to… ...
    1 week ago
  • National must take action on speculators
    The Government must take action on property speculators who are damaging the housing market and shutting families and young people out of the home ownership dream, Labour Leader Andrew Little says.  “There are a number of options the Government could… ...
    1 week ago
  • Milk price halves: A $7b economic black hole
    Global milk prices have halved since the peak last year, creating an economic black hole of almost $7 billion that will suck in regions reliant on dairy, crucial industries and the Government’s books, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The… ...
    1 week ago
  • Kitchen plan set to swallow up health boards’ funds
    The financial impacts of implementing a proposal to outsource hospital food, forced on them by a crown-owned company which is now facing an auditor-general’s inquiry, are being felt by district health boards across the country, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Reserve Bank scathing of Government
    The Reserve Bank’s most scathing critique to date of National’s inability to handle the housing crisis shows the Bank is sick of having to pick up the pieces, Labour Leader Andrew Little says.  “John Key continues to deny there is… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Time for McDonald’s to upsize work hours
    Labour is calling on McDonald’s to have more respect for their workers and offer them more guaranteed work hours. McDonald’s is proposing to guarantee its workers 80 per cent of their rostered hours, Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Brownlee misses the boat on asbestos
    Gerry Brownlee has once again missed an opportunity to improve the lives of Cantabrians post-earthquakes, Labour’s Canterbury Earthquake Recovery spokesperson Ruth Dyson says. A new report from the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser,… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government must come clean on troop deployment and protections
    New Zealanders deserve more than to hear about their troops’ deployment overseas from Australian media, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “News from Australia that Kiwi troops are on their way to Iraq this week is another example of the culture… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Cancer prevention calls gain momentum
    Research showing bowel cancer treatment sucks up more public health dollars than other cancers once again highlights the need for a national screening programme, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. A study by Otago University, which found colon cancer is… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Burger King shows zero-hour contracts not needed
    The abandonment of zero-hour contracts by Burger King is further evidence good employers do not need to use them, Labour’s spokesperson on Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway says. "Congratulations to the Unite Union and Burger King for settling an employment agreement… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Kiwis deserve more than reheats
    The Government looks set to rely on regurgitated announcements for this year’s Budget if today’s speech is anything to go by, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “National has been building up to this Budget for seven long years, promising a… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Landlords not cashing in on insulation schemes
    The fact so few landlords have taken up the generous taxpayer subsidy for retrofitting shows it is time to legislate minimum standards, says Labour’s Associate Housing spokesperson Poto Williams. “Many landlords aren’t using Government insulation schemes because they don’t want… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Zero excuses, end zero hour contracts now
    It’s time Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse cut the weasel words and banned zero hour contracts, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “Michael Woodhouse today acknowledged zero hour contracts are unfair. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • We’ve reached Peak Key with ‘artificial target’
    John Key’s attempt to redefine his cornerstone promise of two election campaigns as an artificial target suggests his other promises are works of fiction, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “For seven years and two election campaigns, John Key has… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Top 10 need to know facts on climate change
    All the numbers and stats around climate change can be confusing, so we’ve put together a handy list of the top 10 numbers about climate change that we should all know- and then do something about. You can sign up here to… ...
    GreensBy Frog
    2 weeks ago
  • Campbell Live a bastion of investigative journalism
    The announcement that current affairs programme Campbell Live is under review and may be axed has sparked outrage from the New Zealand public, for good reason, says Labour’s Broadcasting Spokesperson Clare Curran. “Investigative journalism is a precious resource in today’s… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ground Zero for ‘disastrous’ contracts
    Yesterday the Green Party called on the Government to follow the leadership of Restaurant Brands and ditch zero-hour contracts. Currently it looks like the Government is a large part of the zero-hours problem. It allows these types of “non-jobs” to… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Trust in National will disappear with deficit
    Bill English is set to break his promise to get the books back in the black this year and lose the trust of Kiwis who have had to do it too hard for too long, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Dorothy Jelicich passes away
    It is with sincere sadness that the Labour Party conveys its sympathies and condolences to the bereaved family of Dorothy Jelicich who passed away last night at the age of 87 years, says the MP for Mangere, Su’a William Sio.… ...
    2 weeks ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere