Limited choices can’t compare to eating dirt
As students here at the University of Houston bicker over food service and the diversity of meals offered on campus, people in Haiti are sitting down right now to a meal of dirt.
This is not a euphemism. The Associated Press reports rising food costs and declining living standards have led to riots in a country already in need of stabilization. Furthermore, Haiti’s poorer citizens – 80 percent live on less than $2 a day – have turned to dirt cakes and dirt soups as meal substitutes. The AP reports Haitians have long regarded dirt as a source of calcium and as an effective antacid; however, many people in the country are now relying on dirt for sustenance.
Though it may be difficult to focus on problems in another country – what with the shifting economy here in the U.S., gas prices rising steadily and wars being waged by our military in Iraq and Afghanistan – we have yet to have a mass of people in America having to eating dirt just to alleviate hunger pains.
Some people in this country are going without food right now; we have poor people and homeless folks who do not have a table at which to sit down and eat, much less food to serve. These people have places to turn – food banks, soup kitchens and other social assistance programs – which are nowhere to be found in Haiti.
The United Nations World Food Program has appealed for immediate aid for its efforts in Haiti. Having to pay twice as much for pasta this year than last and seeing some food prices shoot up as much as 50 percent could be cause for rioting Haitians to continue violent protests. Such an uprising could upset the balance in a nation still trying to settle itself after the rebellion that led to the removal of then-Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Though there may be food on market shelves in Haiti, few are able to afford it, according to the UN WFP’s Web site.
That people in the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere need to shovel dirt onto their plates just to have a meal is deplorable. There is already a program in place – thanks to the U.N. – working to alleviate the food crisis in Haiti, yet it is far short of the funds needed to put actual food on Haitian plates.
The $15 you spend on coffee a week could feed 10 starving children for the same length of time.
What if instead of some high-priced restaurant chain, a food vendor popped up on campus whose specialty was dirt-based meals? Would you eat there? Of course not.
Yet, Haitians have no such choice. It is either eat dirt or go hungry.
We Americans work hard -in school and on the job – so parting with our money for $3 or more per-gallon gas is hard enough without having to shell out a few bucks for people we will probably never meet.
Household budgets in this country are tightening up to offset our own economic concerns. If we do not eat, we are unable to work and provide for our families, so trying to make dollars stretch even farther than they are now is made harder by donating money – to the U.N. or any other charitable organization.
Still, you can skip a few cups of coffee and No. 1 combos to donate $15 to the U.N.’s World Food Program (www.wfp.org). I certainly can, and will. If the 35,000 plus members of the UH community – not just students, but faculty and staff as well – could find the money to donate, dirt cakes could be replaced with filling, nutritious food staples.
Lopez, an English post-baccalaureate student, can be reached via [email protected]