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The world food problem: a comparison of life between two extremes

Developing countries 

In developing countries, water availability is scarce; the poorer people in this situation will suffer more than their well-off counterparts. The poorer people will have less food either because their food production has been stalled due to the lack of water or, because the are simply unable to produce enough food due to limited livestock. These people are more likely to suffer from detrimental consequences of household food insecurity, especially if they are also victims of poverty. In a bid to cope with this, these people are likely to eat less or less frequently with the aim of saving their limited food resources for the crucial time of land cultivation.

Around this time, work may be scarce, so many will migrate to neighbouring villages or cities to find work - even if successful, wages are likely to be extremely low. In developing countries, men are usually the sole breadwinners of the household, they will be the ones who migrate, leaving the women to care to the household. For these women, priorities instantly change - less time is spent cooking, cleaning and on childcare (e.g. breastfeeding) while more time is spent taking care of the family farm land.

In the rainy season, diseases peak, for example, guinea worm and malaria (just after rainy season), all of which contributes to a weakened immune response. In adults suffering from HIV/Aids, pregnant women or children who are malnourished (stunted or wasted), the effects of the increase in disease during rainy seasons are much worse.

During this season, birth rates peak however, the body weight of mothers are low (as a consequence of poor nutrition), resulting in the low birth weight of children retrospectively. After the rainy season is over and harvest time proceeds, things improve for some time; food is available, revenue is generated from the sale of food products and there is more time and resources are available to allow for the proper care of the children.

The quality of life becomes slightly better; birth weight improves from a chronic state to near average and the development of disease reduces, however, the reality is that for the majority, the quality of life remains low all year round. For those who experience a better quality of life during harvest time, the reality for these people is that the cycle gradually begins all over again; lasting years and passing down from generation to generation.

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Developed countries

In developed countries, fast food restaurants have changed the eating behaviours of many people. The percentage of people who cook their meals has dropped due to the rise in eating out and takeaway culture. On top of this, there is a greater tendency to snack between meals and such behaviours are encouraged from a young age. In school for example, children are encouraged to snack during break times, before and or after lunch; these snacks are usually packed full of refined sugars which offer no nutritive value except for empty calories to the diet of the child.

The process of urbanisation has further instilled a new way of living and has resulted in changes to every day diets. With the rise of urbanisation, accessibility to fast foods establishments are heightened and because these foods are so easy to access, people eat them more. Food is seen as a source of pleasure rather than a means of survival, so these people immerse themselves in the ‘foodie’ culture, consuming trendy foods that are often high in saturated fats, salt and sugar. This increase in the consumption of low-quality food has resulted in a rise in the prevalence of diseases e.g. obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease in the developed world.

Urbanisation and the freedom of travel bring people together, creating new job opportunities and encouraging the interactions between different cultures and communities.  Because of this, income is higher than in the past and the amount of money left after the payment of bills (disposable income) often goes towards food for enjoyment.

The penetration of television into homes, and introduction of technology, cars and jobs that encourage a sedentary lifestyle also contributes to the new ‘obesogenic’ population where food consumption is not equal to but exceeds physical activity levels.

In periods of extreme weather conditions, food still remains anything but a source of concern. In fact, food consumption in the winter time increases and the foods that are consumed for ‘comfort’ tend to be high in saturated fats and salt. Around Christmas time, this way of eating becomes heightened.

For these people, life is sweet. In the case of disease onset, treatment is available and, in many forms from counselling to surgery; all of which help to improve the quality of life by reducing or eliminating illness. In comparison to developing countries with limited resources, food is generally not a matter of concern for the average person and consumption is usually not affected by other factors in the developed world.

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Paula OyellaBy Paula Oyella