Global Food Crisis: Is it Global? Is it a Crisis?

At the end of June, I had the opportunity to travel to a developing country for the first time since hearing about the Global Food Crisis. I spent the week in Tanzania visiting Compassion child development centers and learning firsthand the impact the food crisis is having. I asked the people I met if the rising cost of food is making life more difficult for them.

While most people I spoke with have noticed an increase in food prices in their local markets, no one seemed too adversely affected by the trend. That was until I met four women, all beneficiaries of our AIDS Initiative.

I met these women at the child development center their children attend. When I first walked in and greeted the women, all of them looked away. They found it more comfortable to stare at the floor as we shook hands. This type of nonverbal communication is common for people living in abject poverty as they have been so marginalized by society that any sense of self-worth has long since left them.

After our introductions, the women sat quietly, softly responding to our questions and continuing to avoid eye contact. Slowly their body language changed, and they eventually started to make eye contact.

As they began to open up one woman asked that we turn on a TV to drown out our conversation for anyone within hearing distance beyond our small group. Each of the women then proceeded to share that they were infected with HIV/AIDS and feared being stigmatized if their friends found out. When asked about the increase in food prices, one woman told of being hospitalized and that her family was unable to afford food for her.

In many developing countries hospitals do not provide food. The only food patients receive is what their families bring them. For people living with HIV/AIDS, lack of food weakens their already-compromised health and often makes sticking to their antiretroviral drug therapy even more difficult.

So, is the Global Food Crisis truly global, and is it really a crisis?

Based on media reports, information provided by a number of Compassion’s field offices and my experience in Tanzania, the increase in food prices is global. Every country is affected in some way.

Yet the crisis is not global. The crisis is country and region specific for the most part — affecting only certain areas. Even in countries currently able to manage the increase in food prices, the slightest rise in cost is devastating to some families.

For the woman I met in Tanzania, the increased cost of food meant her children could feed themselves or they could feed their mother in her illness. That’s a burden no child should have to carry. Sadly, I fear this story is not unique.

The growing cost of food is forcing people living in poverty to decide who eats and who does not, assuming they are fortunate enough to be able to buy food at all.

What would you have done?

8 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Karen Wright August 27, 2008

    Compassion’s AIDS Initiative provides supplemental food assistance for individuals infected with AIDS. Our goal is to assist families, but not serve as their main source of support. The woman I met was a single mom and her family’s only source of support. When she fell ill the family temporarily lost their primary source of income and, therefore, food. What I do not know of her story is how long she was in the hospital and whether the church or the child’s Compassion project was notified. While our project workers conduct home visits, it is possible her hospitalization occurred between visits and no one was notified.

  2. Denise August 26, 2008

    Thank you for the info. I was thinking these women were enrolled in the program through their children and I know some people do receive food and medicine.
    Just a reminder, our monthly support goes to our sponsored child and if we can afford to send part or all of the “FAMILY GIFT” this will help the family buy food and needs for the rest of the family. I usually spread the gift out in three payments and try to get it to them during some of the “hunger months” which are listed under project and community information online in “my account” and also during the planting months if I think they can plant a garden.

  3. Chris Giovagnoni August 26, 2008


    This page on explains how the AIDS Initiative works.

  4. Denise August 25, 2008

    If these women were ALL beneficiaries of the Compassion Aids Iniative, why did they not have any food? I’m not sure I understand how much help they get from this program.

  5. Carolyn F July 8, 2008

    It makes my heart ache. My sponsored child is in Tanzania. Thank goodness for Compassion in these children’s lives, but is it enough?

  6. Miriam July 8, 2008

    The real question is, if they needed help, would they tell you?

    People in the developing world have a different idea of sustainable than we do. Personally, I don’t count “We have money now that we sold our daughter” or “We can’t buy anything else but food,” as sustainable. These are from people in a developing countries that are not amoung the poorest (and therefore not countries that Compassion works in).

    There are many people who would not ask for help for the same reason those four women were reluctant to share their need even though they were destitute. So I think action is required even before people get malnutrition.

  7. Lisa Miles July 7, 2008

    We’re on the cusp of something that is both global and a crisis.

    2008 brought massive crop loss — over three million acres of corn and soybeans were wiped out in the U.S. And this is at a time when corn prices were already soaring. Australia’s wheat crop was lost to drought. Myanmar’s rice crop was lost to the cyclone.

    No crops = a shrinking supply of food and massively higher prices for what is available. How can the poor manage this when in some regions 80% of their income already goes toward food? When food prices eat up 100% of their income, how do they then afford clothing, shelter, education, healthcare — what if someone in their family falls ill?

    I read something today that scared the daylights out of me. Australia, which historically experiences drought every 20-25 years, is now experiencing crop-destroying drought every two years. Their minister of agriculture said that recent reports on climate change in that country read like a “disaster novel.” If other regions follow suit, we are in for big, big trouble with our world’s food supply.

    I think this is a storm that those in developed countries can weather — but third world countries and the poor…

  8. Beth Ingersoll July 7, 2008

    That’s just awful…

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