Feeding 7 billion
How food impacts communities around the world
Food connects us, and at the same time helps shape our identity.
That's the narrative Seattle-based photographer Michael Hanson tries to show in his ongoing series, Feeding 7 Billion. He documents food's scarcity and abundance, the communities and rituals that surround it, and how it affects our planet.
For two months in 2010, Hanson traveled around the United States with his brother and friend in a short school bus that ran on vegetable oil, collecting stories and photos of America's urban farming and local food movement. He saw the foundations of communities built on local farms. He saw teenage mothers in Detroit spend part of the school day on a working farm. And he witnessed New Orleans' resilient Versailles community create makeshift backyard farms in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Since then, Hanson's photography has grown to include more international stories of food: tea field workers in Sumatra, Indonesia; salt ponds in Maras, Peru; daily rationing in certain parts of Cuba; and women selling their last chickens at a Chichicastenango, Guatemala market in order to support their families.
"Where our food comes from was an obvious mission," Hanson tells Mashable. "Food hits on multiple fronts. It defines our community. Food signals changes in tradition, history, geography. You can find out a lot about a country or culture by eating its food."
Documenting where food comes from helps shine a light on world hunger and climate change — the haves vs. the have-nots, thriving landscapes vs. withering resources.
Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, according to the United Nations World Food Programme. The latest statistics show that approximately 805 million people do not have access to enough food to lead healthy, active lives. In the developing world, one in six children is underweight and 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry. And if female farmers had the same access to resources as male farmers, it could eliminate hunger for up to 150 million people.
A comprehensive 2014 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that climate change is beginning to drag down crop yields and poses a large threat to food security in the coming decades. Hunger and malnutrition could increase by up to 20% by 2050 as a result of climate change, according to the World Food Programme, as the world population skyrockets to an estimated 9.6 billion, driven largely by rapid rates of population growth in areas where food security is already a challenge, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
But people around the world are working to reshape our food system, whether it's on farms, in backyards and public spaces, or in their very homes. That's what Hanson hopes to do with his work: capture the people who see the connection between a healthy planet and sustainable food, and inspire those who see his photographs to do the same.
"Food has a story," Hanson says. "Maybe it's of landscape or people, environmentally positive or detrimental, but all our food has a story, and each one is unique."