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A framework for analysis and historical overview

Introduction

Sainsbury’s marketing manager described entering the store as a geography lesson or a trip around the world.

(Cook, 1994, 244)

This book examines the geography of the world food system. It examines the processes ‘behind the supermarket shelves’ which explain the geography of food production and consumption. The main thesis is that hunger persists because the political will to eliminate it is lacking. Decisions made at all scales, from the international to the familial, help explain why some people enjoy a rich and varied diet while others suffer from hunger. This book challenges traditional conceptualisations of hunger, which analyse it with reference to natural disasters and ‘overpopulation’ and which tend to grant it an element of inevitability. There is nothing inevitable about the persistence of hunger. When the essential political character of hunger is appreciated then it becomes possible to envisage a world where hunger is history.

While the political character of the problem has long been appreciated by some academics (Warnock, 1987), the ‘problem of hunger’ in popular consciousness and in some textbooks continues to assume an apolitical character which denies the connections between feast in some regions and hunger in others. It is conceptualised as a ‘world food problem’ rather than a problem of ‘world hunger’; these are quite different things. Most students, when asked to rank the causes of world hunger, prioritise natural causes over human ones; floods, droughts and poor soils are most popular. When the human dimension is acknowledged, the ‘problem of population’ is most frequently offered, followed by war. Several other assumptions are exposed through discussions with students. Among the most relevant are the following:

-2-

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