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Hunger is a political choice

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Aaron Crichlow is the cofounder of Bermuda is Love (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Food insecurity is a condition characterised by the lack of consistent access to enough nutritious food to lead an active and healthy life. When someone is severely food-insecure, they have run out of food and gone a day or more without eating, and are deemed to be experiencing hunger.

For those who are moderately food-insecure, access to food is uncertain. As a result, they may have to sacrifice other basic needs just to be able to eat. However, when they do eat, it is usually whatever is most readily available or the cheapest, which may not be the most nutritious food. The rise in obesity and other forms of malnutrition are partly a result of this reality.

In Bermuda, a person’s socioeconomic status is often the most significant indicator of hunger and food insecurity, as a person’s access to food is intrinsically tied to wealth and income. Thus, those persons experiencing food insecurity will not have the funds available to purchase the healthy foods they need.

Bermuda Is Love

Ironically, however, according to the World Bank, Bermuda has the fourth highest gross domestic product per capita in the world at $118,845.60, as of 2022. There is additionally an abundance of available food in the grocery stores and markets in Bermuda. However, access to such food is not equal or equitable owing to the high cost of living.

One of the main contributing factors to the cost of food in Bermuda is that Bermuda imports about 90 per cent of its food. This high level of import dependency causes the price of food to rise across the board because of import taxes and fees. This has a knock-on effect on all consumers, but is most felt by those on the lower end of the pay scale, preventing access to adequate, healthy foods. The increased importation of food has further relied on a global food industry that has turned food into a commodity that must be bought and sold to make a profit at the expense of the people consuming it.

The dependency on imported goods and the commodification of food have caused our own local food industry to suffer. There are about 100 persons employed within the Bermuda agriculture industry, which had hired thousands in years past. In addition, of the 735 acres of arable land available, only 360 acres are being actively farmed. The total quantity of arable land has also been lost owing to the development of land. Therefore, in Bermuda, the availability of locally grown produce is limited, and the island is severely challenged to produce enough food to feed its population.

As mentioned above, this has a knock-on effect on the health of our population, whereby the lack of access to adequate, healthy food is arguably the most critical issue facing people in Bermuda. The island has some of the highest rates of diabetes and obesity in the world. The lack of access to nutritious food for everyone affects not only the right to food, but the health and security of the country.

Bermuda, therefore, needs to revolutionise its food and agricultural system to provide food so that everyone living here has access to adequate, healthy food, and is able to live without fear of hunger.

We must prioritise feeding our people. We must recognise hunger as an insult to our collective conscience. We must be offended by people facing food insecurity and hunger in a nation with the fourth-highest GDP per capita in the world.

Moreover, the whole of Bermuda must see it as their responsibility to ensure that no one goes hungry in Bermuda. That each and every one of us must take it as our personal responsibility to ensure that all children in Bermuda have access to the healthy food they need to perform at their best.

The Government, companies and individuals must recognise the intrinsic human right to food (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

We must ask ourselves what kind of society do we wish to live in? A society where access to food is determined by one’s economic position, where money is valued over people or, rather, a society where all people have access to adequate, healthy food, where food is produced to feed society, and where people are valued over profit.

The human right to food encompasses the ideal that all humans are equal, that we must all be treated with dignity and respect, and that denying a person access to food goes against our own humanity. It violates what it means to be human.

The Government, as well as companies and individuals, must recognise the intrinsic human right to food. And we must show that we value humanity by insisting on the full realisation of the right to food in Bermuda. Prioritising food security and the right to food is the first step in creating a Bermuda without hunger.

• Aaron Crichlow is the cofounder of Bermuda Is Love

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Published December 28, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated December 28, 2023 at 7:14 am)

Hunger is a political choice

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