As incongruous as it may seem, last week Save The Children invited a group of us to an evening of wonderful food and wine, in order to talk about world hunger. Amy, Sarah and Brie did a great job of getting the group to engage with the issues around extreme poverty, but instead of making us feel bad about our relative privilege they simply told us what can be done (and fed us jolly well while they were at it). The food and wine was very generously donated by the River Cottage and its suppliers, cooked by their fabulous head chef Danny Bohan, and wines were served by my favourite London sommelier, Emily O’Hare – a real treat.
Zucchini Fritti, Culatello di Zibello
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose NV
Risotto al pomodoro – with Riccio Fiorentino tomatoes, pecorino and basil
Filippi ‘Vigne della Bra’ – Garganega – 2009, Soave
Coniglio lesso e fritto – with mint, black olives and artichokes, baked fresh borlotti beans
Damiano Ciolli ‘Silene’ – Cesanese – 2009, Lazio
Terre di Balbium ‘Balbium’ – Magliocco – 2009, Calabria
Marco di Bartoli ‘Bukkuram’ – Moscato – 2007, Passito di Pantelleria
I cringe to admit it, but world poverty is as abstract a concept to me as it is a deathly reality to those who go hungry every day. Recently I pulled together a playlist for a party to celebrate the new Ginger Pig Farmhouse Cook Book, and there’s loads of food related music out there – all from a time when obtaining a meal or feeding your kids could bring about the same sense of despair as a broken heart. “How things have changed!” I thought – and they really have in developed countries. Can you imagine a Justin Bieber song about only being able to afford a single meatball? Thought not.
While the evening was hugely uplifting and positive, it’s hard to get away from the facts – severe malnutrition and starvation-related illness kills two million children every year, and there’s a lot that can be done to prevent this. There are some wonderful initiatives around farming and self-sufficiency, whereby women receive a loan of five sheep or a single cow, which they pay back by selling milk, or by breeding to increase the herd and selling some of the animals. Not only do the animals provide an income, but the means to ensure family have milk to drink each day; such a heartbreakingly meagre provision, but a lifesaving one for many. We start the evening by trying the staple of the poorest of the poor, ugali, which is a preparation of maize flour and water. It simply doesn’t taste of anything – it’s just a texture – and I find it pretty hard to swallow. It has next to no nutritional value either and is intended as a side dish, but a few spoonfuls is all many people have to eat each day, with many parents going hungry to try and pass their pathetic rations onto their kids. Makes you think twice about complaining about having to ‘slum it’ and grab a sandwich from EAT.
Where the ‘shock and guilt’ adverts of starving kids I remember from the 80s and 90s are about direct fundraising, the Big If campaign is looking for our help to apply political pressure. You know how Amazon and Apple and Google don’t pay their taxes? Well imagine that circumstance a developing country, with no ability to track or highlight corporate tax evasion and even less power to do anything about it. The Big If campaign isn’t just trying to apply emergency aid (although this is still critically important), it seeks lasting change by implementing of a financial structure by which those legally accountable to pay corporate tax are brought to task, injecting a lifeblood of cash into a governing system that really needs it. The other elements of the campaign are around preventing farmers from losing their land, fundraising and government transparency.
All the Big If campaign is asking for right now is for people to make a big, big noise – and you can join a party while you’re at it. The G8 – eight of the most powerful people in the world’s governments – are meeting again and the Big If campaign wants to make sure world hunger and malnutrition is on the agenda.
There’s enough food for everyone in the world, but not everyone has enough food – come to Hyde Park on Saturday 8th June and join the rally that wants to change this.