More Cash Increases Wealth, But Nutrition, Too?
Do Subsidies Improve Nutrition?
Does more cash for food mean better nutrition? And from where should the cash come? This 2012 article is from IRIN, Oct 10.
by IRINFood price subsidies -- whether donor or government funded -- are provided through conditional cash transfers where people receive cash to purchase food, or vouchers with cash value that can be redeemed for food at selected stores.
"The volatile food prices are driving nutritious foods out of reach of the world's poorest people and are threatening to exacerbate the global crisis of malnutrition," said Liam Crosby, policy and research adviser on hunger at Save the Children's office in the UK.
Nearly all urban and most rural dwellers buy food from markets, even if they grow their own food, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
"Poor people are already spending some 70 percent or more of their incomes on food, but their incomes are so low that even spending 70 percent does not buy enough food to meet their dietary needs," said Sumiter Singh Broca, policy officer at FAO's office in Bangkok.
The Asian Development Bank warned in February 2012 that even a 10 percent increase in food prices could push 30 million more Indians and four million more Bangladeshis into extreme poverty.
Far from being a "magic bullet" to solving hunger, consumer subsidies may actually hurt rural producers who lose income in a programme that directs business to a limited number of vendors, Crosby added.
In Hunan Province, most who received the subsidies opted to buy more fish - typically expensive relative to other foods -- and less rice, pulses and spinach, leading to a net decline of both calories and vitamins in their diets.
In Asia more than one third of children under the age of five are "stunted" -- too short for their age -- while 27 percent weigh too little for their age, a sign of chronic malnutrition.
Some 13 million children in South and Southeast Asia are born every year with mental disabilities caused by lack of iodine -- found in iodized table salt and naturally in shellfish and saltwater fish -- while nearly half a million children under five years old die due to Vitamin A deficiency in the same period.
The most recent FAO estimate of the number of malnourished people in the world is 870 million, or one in every eight people.
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JJS: Helping the hungry is generous, but why should so many be poor in the first place? The main reason is lack of access to decent land. People could afford good land if, ironically, they had to pay a land tax. That’s because such land dues would discourage a powerful few from hoarding land and speculating in land. More land would become available, so its price would be lower.
Also, some of the recovered land rent could come back to residents as a rent dividend. If the price of land went up, so would one’s dividend. The dividend would provide a cushion and improve the bargaining position of labor, so wages would rise. Plus, the cash cushion would make it easier for one to spend time getting educated or starting their own business. And coming from the value of land, the extra income would not be a handout but one’s share of the value of our common heritage.
The whole notion of getting an income apart from one’s labor is something that the vast majority of humanity must become comfortable with, just as the rich already have. Fortunately, there is a movement promoting a “basic income”. The Broadbent Institute has released a report called "Towards a More Equal Canada." On p. 21: “We should consider the idea of a guaranteed minimum income. The late Tom Kent, who was the architect behind the Pearson-era reforms that shaped modern Canada, left behind a plea to ensure a reasonable level of income for every Canadian, building on the guarantee we already provide to seniors.” To read more . They just need to draw that extra income from the worth of Mother Earth.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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