Raj Patel lectures on global food issues


Raj Patel, global hunger crisis speaker, listens to a student’s question on Tuesday Oct. 22, 2013. The presentation was part of the Guest of Honor University Lecture Series. Photo by Brianna Neal.

Mariam Makatsaria

Raj Patel, award-winning writer, activist and academic, delivered an engaging lecture and empowering stories about global food-related issues to an audience of more than 150 people at Kent State on Tuesday.

Patel is the British-born American author of “Stuffed and Starved: the Hidden Battle for the World Food System” and “The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy.” The lecture took place at the Student Center as a part of the Guest of Honor University Lecture Series. The Honors College organized the lecture.

Patel talked about the Green Revolution and how more sustainable agriculture policies can be implemented to achieve the goals of eradicating hunger, obesity and food insecurity.

“We have now more calories per person than we’ve ever had, but we also have a billion people who are malnourished,” Patel said.

There was hardly a murmur from the audience as they listened to the speaker recount stories from his experiences in Malawi.

“For me, the important thing here is the recognition that there are solutions,” Patel said. “What I’m keen to do now is kind of shift gears and to think a little bit about how the world can feed itself.”

To support this idea, Patel focused on Malawian communities as an example of areas where “the deepest inequalities of the food system are challenged.”

He then showed the audience a clip from the documentary he is currently working on with award-winning director Steve James,“Generation Food.” The clip showed a new farming practice in a Malawian community during which men and women share recipes, create tasty meals and exchange ideas.

“Recipe days are moments where women and men are equal, and everyone is encouraged to cook,” Patel said. “Women and men come together, and they come up with recipes with these new cool ingredients. It is an exciting space of equality.”

As a result of participating in Recipe days and subsequent organizing, Patel said malnutrition in Malawian communities dropped to 0 percent.

“What this story shows, and what I think is very real in the world today, is that there are thousands of stories of people really understanding some of the deep inequalities of the world and overcoming them,” Patel said. “It seems to me that only through that we will be able to feed the world.”

In a closing comment, Patel said that “there can’t be one thing that ends hunger.” He listed local currencies, investment of science, localizing of economies, understanding and fighting inequality and ending patriarchy as some of the important steps toward “a more just world.” The crowd applauded cheerfully at the end of the lecture.

“I was quite pleased,” said Victoria Bocchicchio, the Honors College’s director of academic programs. “I thought he was very engaging. He is a great storyteller as well as very informative, and he understood how to engage the audience.”

Following the lecture, Patel responded to questions from members of the audience.

Refreshments were available after the lecture. Patel stayed to chat with members of the audience, sign copies of his books and take photographs.

“I learned a lot of things I didn’t know,” said Brian Katona, senior aeronautics major who attended the event. “I guess I would say I agree with everything he said and I thought he supported himself very well. He really is an expert.”

Contact Mariam Makatsaria at [email protected].