Rising Food Prices a Danger to World Health

World Bank Calls on G20 to Address Food Costs

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Cat in a Corn Field

Rising food prices are felt disproportionally by the world's poor and are a danger to public health worldwide, according to the World Bank.

In the latest issue of Food Price Watch, the World Bank claimed prices rose 15 percent between October 2010 and January of this year. This week the organization called on world leaders at the G20 meeting to discuss the impact that rising food prices have on world health.

The World Bank's president, Robert Zoellick, said in a statement: "Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people around the world."

Rising food prices may even be contributing to the unrest in the Middle East, Zoellick said.

According to Reuters, Zoellick told a conference call there is no room for complacency. "Global food prices are now at dangerous levels and it is also clear that recent food price rises are causing pain and suffering for poor people around the globe."

What is also clear is that the price increases affect the way people eat. While in the poorest countries in the world, it means that poverty-stricken residents may simply not have enough to eat, in other parts of the world, it means that people eat more poorly.

In southern Illinois on Wednesday, Kroger Food Stores charged $1.49 for a dozen large eggs. At the same time, pasta and other high carbohydrate foods with lower nutritional values are still relatively inexpensive. Meats and other proteins as well as fresh fruits and vegetables are unusually high-priced, meaning that those who must stretch their grocery dollars the farthest are buying less healthy, processed food.

Although the problem may not be as bad in more developed countries, imagine this scenario: A friend is unemployed. Prior to his company losing its contract, he made $9 an hour, so his unemployment is about $450 a month. That covers his rent and utilities and gas to get back and forth to the local community college where he is taking classes to avoid future unemployment. Because he is in school and unemployed, he is eligible for food stamp assistance of $91 a month.

With family and friends feeding him on a regular basis, he still is not getting anything close to a healthy diet. Even a gallon of milk and a box of cereal is an extravagance right now. He can also get assistance at the local food pantries, but once again, most of what they have to offer is not particularly healthy. Much of it is processed and full of preservatives, sodium and other things he would prefer to avoid.

Of course, in this situation, he is grateful for what he has access to and eats what he can. But he is well aware that the damage he does to himself now, eating this kind of rubbish, is going to haunt him later. As his friend, I invited this man to meals three times a week and send him home with leftovers, but I can't feed the 44 million people worldwide driven into poverty because of rising food prices.

Zoellick said it's a crisis we can't ignore. He forecast unrest due to rising food price in Central Asia in the near future. Those who haven't felt the sting of higher food prices soon will.

Illinois Lucinda Gunnin resident writes about medical and health issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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