We heard from two keynote speakers, E.N. Anderson, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus at University of California, Riverside and Mark A. Lowry, Director, Orange County Food Bank. Dr. Anderson spoke about global hunger issues and his work with families in the Yucatán, within isolated areas which sometimes do not have roads.
Currently there are 1 billion people hungry in the world. As an average, it takes two thirds of an acre of cultivated land to feed a person per year. However, we have been losing cultivated land to urbanization and bad land use around the world. China has lost ¼ of its cultivated land in the last 40 years.
Worldwide he emphasized the challenge to fight folic acid deficiency in pregnant women. Iron deficiency is also an issue. He showed the differences between the terms hunger, malnutrition and famine.
Dr. Anderson thinks that GMOs have not increased crop yields as much as though, although it has reduced the use of pesticides. Products made with GMOs have been in the market for approximately 15 years. He has not heard of any case in which a person has been adversely affected by GMOs. He referred to the irony of the European market being opposed to GMOs but on the other hand using irradiation. In his opinion, both technologies should be allowed.
During the second part of the evening, Mark Lowry spoke about the challenges and opportunities that exist to help qualified people, obtain food. During his tenure at the Orange County Food Bank the amount of food distributed has grown from 2,000,000 pounds per year to 21,000,000 pounds per year.
One of the perceptions they often face is how can an area like Orange County, which is listed among the 10 most expensive in the country to own a home, have a hunger problem. Mark was recently in Washington DC and was listening in on the budget debates. Many members of Congress were shocked that the food stamp program had increased its cost from $40 billion to $80 billion per year. They were looking at reducing the food stamp program budget. What they had not looked at, was that many more families where being fed now, since the economic downturn. He stated that even a 1% reduction in the budget, could mean that the Orange County Food Bank would have to distribute food to twice as many people, to make up for the difference.
The food bank is also involved in promoting community farming and education. Mark emphasized that all of us can help. The food bank always welcomes volunteers, food and money donations.