A Seven-Month Wait for Lunch

Last fall, the United States government bought lunch for some hungry schoolchildren in Mozambique. Though the students lived in their country’s best farming region, where deep green hills cover rich, red soil, their benefactors didn’t buy the food nearby—nor even from their wealthier neighbors in South Africa. Nor did they turn to the children’s farmer parents to grow their own. Instead they followed a culinary tradition any American can relate to: They had it delivered.

On the surface, that type of giving makes sense. The U.S. is not only one of the richest countries on the planet, but also a preeminent food producer. Even as the U.S. has shipped scores of non-farm jobs overseas, it continues to enjoy a $32.4 billion agricultural trade surplus. A recent study in the journal Food Policy estimated that the amount of food Americans throw away without eating totals more than $165 billion every year—equal to one-seventh of the combined economies of all 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

So, for the past 60 years, we have followed that logic to its apparent conclusion: relying on transportation to get food from the bountiful U.S. to countries where hunger is widespread. Those food giveaway programs, organized primarily under the U.S. government’s “Food for Peace” initiative, have developed into a $1.4 billion-a-year industry.  

Yet something is clearly

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus5 min read
The Deepest Uncertainty: When a hypothesis is neither true nor false.
Georg Cantor died in 1918 in a sanatorium in Halle, Germany. A pre-eminent mathematician, he had laid the foundation for the theory of infinite numbers in the 1870s. At the time, his ideas received hostile opposition from prominent mathematicians in
Nautilus5 min read
The English Word That Hasn’t Changed in Sound or Meaning in 8,000 Years
One of my favorite words is lox,” says Gregory Guy, a professor of linguistics at New York University. There is hardly a more quintessential New York food than a lox bagel—a century-old popular appetizing store, Russ & Daughters, calls it “The Classi
Nautilus5 min read
Dark Matter Gets a Reprieve in New Analysis
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. The galactic center shines too brightly, like the glow of a metropolis at night where maps show only a town. To mend their cosmic cartography, astrophysicists have spent years debati