The Weekly Shop

Food waste in the West has reached unprecedented levels in the last decade. And what’s even worse is the fact that this wastage continues, even inspite of rocketing food prices.

Add to that, the soaring obesity levels across the likes of the USA, UK, Ireland, to name but three, and the amount of corn syrup, preservatives, chemicals and crap in general pumped into our food, along with the never ending encroachment of GM foods in our diet, it’s no wonder that the population in the West is suffering from more food allergies, lower sperm counts, heart and digestive diseases than ever before.

On the flip side, there are nations whose population does not enjoy the excesses and trappings of a corn syrup filled, chemically pumped diet. In fact, they have to eek out an existence on a very basic diet indeed. And they also don’t throw stuff away just because they bought too much in a two-for-one offer down at the Piggly Wiggly or at Tesco and it’s now going off!

To get a glimpse of how other families live, Oxfam published a new photo series, which depicts people from around the globe with one week’s food supply for their families.

Building on an idea that originated with 2005′s Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, the new images are especially well-timed, when reports about half of the world’s food going to waste vie for space with news about rising global food prices. According to a recent article accompanying some of the photos in the UK Independent, “There is deep injustice in the way food is grown and distributed … the world’s poorest people spend 50%-90% of their income on food, compared with just 10%-15% in developed countries.”

Two things that strike me the most. The first is how almost everyone’s food basket consists of locally grown and seasonally dependent food. Unlike, say, the EU, where you can buy strawberries in the middle of winter, in these photo’s, if it wasn’t in season, it’s not on the table.

Secondly, if you look at the shopping basket of someone in the west, there’s loads and loads of pre-cooked, tinned, ready-meal style meals, and practically none of that crap in other the countries. Think about how much salt, sugar, preservatives and chemicals go into making that tin of Campbells soup, or that microwave lasagne!

Food For Thought – Literally!

Shahveller, AzerbaijanOxfam Food Azerbaijan

Mirza Bakhishov, 47, his wife, Zarkhara, 37, and two sons, Khasay, 18 and Elchin, 15, own a small plot of land where they grow cotton and wheat as well as animal feed. “Our small cattle and poultry [are] everything for us. All our income and livelihood is dependent on them,” said Bakhishov.

Vavuniya, Sri LankaOxfam Food Sri Lanka

Selvern, 70, far right, and her daughters have been members of Oxfam’s local dairy cooperative for four years. Her youngest daughter Sukitha, second from right, works at the cooperative and is also trained as a vet. Selvern gets up at 5:30 every morning to help her daughters milk their cows; she sends most of the milk to the co-op with Sukitha and uses the remainder to make cream and ghee for the family.

Mecha, EthiopiaOxfam Food Ethiopia

A week’s food supply for Wubalem Shiferaw, her husband Tsega, and 4-year-old daughter Rekebki includes flour, vegetable oil, and a paste of spices called berbere. Tsega works as a tailor, while Wubalem follows a long local tradition and supplements her income with honey production. An Oxfam-supported cooperative helped Wubalem make the transition to modern beekeeping methods, which produce greater yields.

Yegeghus, ArmeniaOxfam Food Armenia

The Josephyan family from with their weekly food supply, which includes wheat flour, dried split peas, sugar, and cooking oil. The family supplements their diet with eggs laid by their chickens and wild greens from the fields.

Kaftarkhana, TajikistanOxfam Food Tajikistan

BiBi-Faiz Miralieba and her family, from left to right: son Siyoushi, 11, niece Gulnoya Shdova, 14, and children Jomakhon, 6, Shodmon, 9, and Jamila,13. Like many women in rural areas of Tajikistan, Miralieba is now the head of her household as her husband has migrated to Russia to find work.

Gutu, ZimbabweOxfam Food Zimbabwe

Ipaishe Masvingise and her family with their food for the week, which includes grains and groundnuts as well as fruits like pawpaw and oranges. Masvingise, a farmer, said she sells extra grain from her harvests to pay for school fees and medical costs, and to support members of her extended family who don’t own their own land.

London, U.K.Oxfam Food UK

Ian Kerr, 30, with his family and a week’s food supplied by a charity food bank. Ian left his job to become a full-time carer to his disabled son Jay-J, 12. Also pictured are his daughter Lillian, 5, and mother-in-law Linda, 61. Kerr says the family’s favorite food is spaghetti Bolognese, but Lillian says her favorite is Jaffa Cakes.

Original by Anna Kramer at Oxfam America. The photographers are (in order of photos) David Levene (Oxfam), Abir Abdullah (Oxfam), Tom Pietrasik (Oxfam), Abbie Trayler-Smith (Panos), Andy Hall (Oxfam), Annie Bungeroth (Oxfam) and Abbie Trayler-Smith (Oxfam).

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