Hunger as a Failure of Human Decency

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Peter Menziel’s Hungry Planet Gallery synthesizes culture surrounding food and family life in a way that words themselves typically would fail to do. For one thing, the US gallery should be a lesson in excess. One can easily see the massive influence of corporate America by simply following along with the typical family of four’s excursion to the grocery store and subsequent visit to McDonalds immediately after. While perusing the aisles of Raleys’, we see an almost limitless abundance of packaged and processed foods on each shelf, top to bottom, with name brands that range from Capri Sun, to Raisin Bran and Skippy or Easy Mac and Pasta Roni. These products are almost all offshoots of what we know are really only 5 or 6 gigantic conglomerates that lobby constantly to the American congress for subsidies on products like corn and wheat that have been stripped of any kind of real nutritional value, and instead can be mass produced and grow bottom lines effortlessly. This incredible in-your-face marketing and branding of so much of what Carolan would describe as micronutrient malnutrition based ‘food’ should be alarming to most, and yet as we see depicted in the photos, the average American family of four is blissfully ignorant to what they have, what they are consuming, how that is effecting their health long term, and how they are being manipulated by corporate interests to consume products that are providing only the bare minimum of nutrition in most cases.

Seeing photos of Filipino men, women and children picking through discarded trash from wholesale markets, not for gadgets or knick-knacks, but merely for food, has me contemplating the IMF and World Bank’s influence over their lives as ordinary citizens, and not as the giant NGO’s that they are. The Philippines is no different than many other developing nations all around the world in their cultivated dependence on US (and other developed countries) food aid such as grain, and this dependence, along with their own individualized struggle to conform to the new developed world mentality has put them in a position of much needed loans for support; loans that come with austerity measures that ultimately bring about reductions in much needed agriculture and socio-economic reform. While there are photos of Filipino families surrounded by produce, there are the much more poignant depictions of their neighbors searching through mountains of garbage to feed themselves, and this is a real life systemic failure of human decency that has its roots in US and European greed encompassed by the very institutions that were originally set up to solve such issues. The Filipino food markets show how produce can be grown, cultivated and sold at an affordable price to many (not all) their citizens, and the American grocery store shows how corporate food interests in the US have completely twisted the very idea of what food is by boxing everything up and packaging it in bright colors making everything all look pretty, all the while robbing us of what we really need

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