ProVeg International
The definition of food insecurity is “the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources” according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. All across the world, food insecurity remains an issue despite being essential for human survival. This violation of basic human rights has justifiably led to many movements, ideas and actions to cultivate better, more accessible food systems for everyone regardless of economic status. Ultimately, increasing food justice means reducing poverty, a mission that lies at the core of ProVeg International, a global “food awareness” organization.

Food Injustice in Africa

Food injustice permeates the continent of Africa as many African countries battle poverty. According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, more than “100 million Africans were facing crisis, emergency, or catastrophic levels of food insecurity in 2020.” The Center highlights a rise of more than 60% in comparison to 2020, with an expectation that food insecurity rates will continue in this direction through 2021 and beyond. The rise in food insecurity rates is alarming and represents a worsening issue in the fight against hunger.

This food insecurity is coupled with Africa’s higher poverty rates. Hunger Notes reports that “according to the World Bank, in 2013, 42.3% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lived on $1.90 or less per day.” This, it also notes, is a major factor in higher levels of food insecurity in African countries. The connection between poverty and hunger in the continent of Africa reveals why there are many efforts to aid and combat both rates of poverty and rising rates of food insecurity. Both anti-poverty initiatives and anti-food insecurity initiatives intersect to fight this pressing issue.

A ProVeg Approach

ProVeg International is a global organization fighting food injustice with increased food awareness and plant-based initiatives. Its branch in South Africa acts as a platform for these initiatives in the African continent. According to its website, ProVeg holds events and participates in political outreach and corporate engagement. All these efforts aim to raise awareness of the importance of accessible, healthy plant-based food. In addition to these activities, ProVeg holds challenges such as Veganuary, which is “a global campaign that encourages people to try plant-based [foods] for the month of January.” This approach of easing people in is important, as is encouraging those who have the means and accessibility to go plant-based to do so.

Using a plant-based approach increases access to affordable and healthy food for those who need it. Additionally, ProVeg encourages those who already have access to fresh grown foods to fully incorporate them into their diets. ProVeg highlights how “achieving food security for everyone means doing more to ensure that everyone has reliable access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food in order to maintain an active and healthy life.” ProVeg International incorporates this message by highlighting how “an inequitable global food distribution system” disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable and impoverished people.

In this way, ProVeg makes it is easy to see the intersections of food insecurity and poverty, showing the importance of ProVeg’s plant-based initiative for achieving food justice. As rates of food insecurity rise across Africa, ProVeg’s plant-based initiative contributes to food justice and seeks to make healthy foods accessible. The role that ProVeg plays presents an important approach in the fight against food injustice.

– Sebastian Fell
Photo: Flickr

Promoting global veganism
According to a 2014 census conducted in India, roughly 28% of its population over the age of 15 are vegetarian. This number drops slightly for the percentage of vegan people. In a country of over 1.3 billion, about 7% of which live below the poverty line, this number is relatively high. However, this may be due to the tradition of vegetarianism, and food being a status marker for the upper caste class. In India, as in much of the Western world, there is a growing stigma regarding eating meat. In reality, not everyone has the same access to vegetarian options. Additionally, there is no guarantee that going vegan provides more sustainable options. As the wealthy are increasingly eating less meat, problems with promoting global veganism have emerged.

Contradictions and Misconceptions

There are undoubtedly benefits to adopting vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. However, there are also alternative methods of living sustainably that may work better in impoverished areas. For example, animals that locals raise for their own consumption generate much less waste than animal products that undergo mass production.

The economic stability of a family or of an individual also factors into their ability to go plant-based. The New York Post has reported that plant milk, such as almond or oat milk, is almost double the price of cow’s milk. In 2019, prices averaged $4.29 per half-gallon of soy or almond milk compared to $2.17 per half-gallon of dairy milk. This kind of expense is often unsustainable for families who are economically unstable and exemplifies an unnecessarily high cost. With the priority of getting enough protein to sustain their lifestyles, a cheaper, readily available animal source may be the better option. The problem with promoting global veganism is that the wealthy are free to assume that their ability to eat no meat transfers to the rest of the world.

The Individual Situation

The EAT-Lancet Commission recently recommended a “universal diet for the health of humans and the planet.” This diet avoids processed foods and animal products and promotes whole foods and plants. However, it does not acknowledge that over a billion people globally cannot afford this diet. Only the top 25% of India’s and South Asia’s populations could afford to follow a diet of this kind. Promoting global veganism in this manner reveals a discrepancy in the economic and social ability of different classes and cultures to adopt a vegan lifestyle.

It is undoubtedly important to search for ways to live more sustainably and limit the consumption of mass-produced animal products. However, assuming that everyone has the same option to do so is unfortunately incorrect. Ultimately, as Feminism In India stated that “it is important for each one of us to look at ourselves and our own consumption habits, and work on them according to the resources available to us.”

Organizations at Work

An organization addressing this issue is A Well-Fed World. This nonprofit provides information on organizations seeking to end global hunger through plant-based alternatives to meat. Its Plants-4-Hunger program also provides support for hunger-based relief projects, specifically those helping children.

In Ethiopia, The International Fund For Africa (IFA) supplies vulnerable students with plant-based school meals and teaches children to grow their own food. ProVeg International has similar programs, supporting children at school by giving them plant-based lunches and encouraging local farmers by purchasing their produce. These organizations help spread awareness about a plant-based lifestyle and make this diet available and possible for the world’s poor.

A Better Way

Vegetarianism and veganism are both valid options for sustainability. However, one must be mindful that promoting global veganism does not stigmatize those who cannot afford these lifestyles. Instead, some alternative methods of sustainable living, such as locally-produced meat diets, are currently better options for the impoverished. In the meantime, there are organizations working to make plant-based options more available to the world’s poor.

– Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr