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21 Days for World Hunger – Day 15: Have You Eaten Today?

21 Days for World Hunger – Day 15: Have You Eaten Today?

This is the 15th day of 21 Days for World Hunger, and I continue on my virtual exploration of hunger in Asia. I’m counting down in anticipation for the conclusion of this journey – in six days.

At this point, I’m more affected by sleep deprivation than food deprivation. I hit a wall, a soft wall, but still, a wall. The hunger issues in Asia are heart-wrenchingly vast. Overwhelming. How can I possibly cover this area, the continent with the most hungry people worldwide, in just two days? I ixnayed the plan to write about India for a number of reasons including an interview that fell through and the fact I need to take a day off from writing on Wednesday. Several times today I entertained the idea of stopping. Just quitting.  Fatigue. I’m pushed to carry on by the nearly one billion hungry people in the world. sigh.

According to Ricepedia

Rice is the staple food of more than half of the world’s population – more than 3.5 billion people depend on rice for more than 20% of their daily calories.

Asia accounts for 90% of global rice consumption, and total rice demand there continues to rise. But outside Asia, where rice is not a staple yet, per capita consumption continues to grow. Rice is the fastest growing food staple in Africa, and also one of the fastest in Latin America.

There is a saying in China; A meal without rice is like a beautiful girl with only one eye.

Rice has been grown for many thousands of years.  According to British Council LearnEnglish Centralrice is closely connected to the culture of many societies. Hindu and Buddhist religions use rice as a religious offering.  Burmese folklore uses rice as a central part of their creation story: the gods gave the first people of Burma rice seeds and directed them to Burma, where the rice would grow well. A Chinese proverb says that ‘precious things are not pearls and jade but the five grains, of which rice is the finest.’

Hunger in North Korea: 늘 먹은 

In the 1980’s my husband was studying Korean at the Defense Language Institute.  He had an elderly Korean instructor who shared how people in the old days used to greet one another with the phrase     오늘 먹은 Have you eaten today? The phrase could also be translated to Have you eaten well?

North Korea ranks 26th out of the 116 countries listed on the Global Hunger Index. With a score of 28.8, this is considered a serious hunger problem. Out of a population of 24.9 million people, roughly 41.6 percent of North Korea’s citizens are living with hunger. This number has risen from 34.2% in 2015. Nearly 70% of the population are considered food insecure. For children under the age of five, 27.9% are stunted as a result of being undernourished.

A famine in the 90’s killed hundreds of thousands of North Koreans (supposedly some were eating grass) and North Korea has suffered with food shortages ever since.

It appears that North Korean’s government is not only blatantly contributing to its own problem of hunger, it’s actually imposing obstacles for possible solutions – preventing the North Koreans citizens from taking the initiative to care for themselves.  And it looks like there may be some accomplices…

Who suffers?

The 24.9 million North Koreans who are in desperate need of food.

My favorite research assistant, the excellent Mr. Pepper, helped me today, because I was desperate. Sharing his own international studies knowledge and information from an article by Tom Murphy entitled North Korea’s stance on hunger is a reminder that it is a man-made problem, 

North Korea’s high rates of hunger are a “stark reminder of the fact that famine and hunger are politically caused problems. Even when drought strikes, there is generally enough food in a country or region to nourish those affected. Problems start when policies by governments affect food prices and/or access.”

In the case of North Korea, its political history in splitting with South Korea left the vast majority of farmland in the south.

“Since then, its isolationist policy makes it difficult for aid groups to provide assistance, and cuts the country off from potential trading partners. The government’s threats of violence and missile tests force the international community to apply sanctions, and the burden falls onto its citizens.”

The article describes how food production fell by about 20% in 2015 (from 2014) because of rains caused by El Nino. The government has reduced food rations despite the 25,000 children suffering from malnutrition.

UNICEF’s representative in North Korea, Timothy Schaffer declares “Without safe water, children are at greater risk of diarrhea, which is a leading cause of malnutrition and death. We have reports of a 72 percent increase in diarrhea among children under five in the most severely drought-affected provinces.”

Seminal Indian economist Amartya Sen made the famous remark, ”No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy.”

While humanitarian assistance is a way to alleviate crises, functioning governments that support citizens are the best way to prevent deadly hunger.

UNICEF requested 18 million dollars to help the ailing children of North Korea, yet in an article from, donor fatigue is a critical problem for North Korea. Already the sanctions make it more difficult to give aid to the country, so if the North Korean government will continue to pursue policies that end up hurting its citizens, why should donors continue to throw good money after bad? The regime’s unwillingness to show support is making aid organizations question whether they should, indeed, help the starving people of North Korea. Meanwhile, North Korean children are dying of diarrhea and malnutrition.

See images inside North Korea by photographer Eric Lafforgue in this Daily Mail article.

Have you eaten today?


Gochujang Tempeh & Blasted Broccoli

I made the Gochujang Tempeh & Blasted Broccoli recipe from Vegan Miam with some minor changes.
For the Gochujang, I adapted this recipe. I also substituted rice vinegar for mirin and added basmati rice. There’s a joke in my family (when I cook) when the smoke detector goes off, dinner’s ready! It was delectable. Delish. Divine. Delightful.

Gochujang Tempeh
Korean cuisine
Gochujang Tempeh

Day 15 Food Intake
Weight = 112.5

Well, oil sure does add a lot of fat to a diet. Fat = 41% of today’s food intake. That is a lot. Carbs = 49% and Protein = 11%. If you add up those numbers you’ll see they equal 101, so how about we don’t add today.



Out of the thirty thousand types of edible plants thought to exist on Earth, just eleven—corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, cassava, sorghum, millet, beans, barley, rye, and oats—account for 93 percent of all that humans eat, and every one of them was first cultivated by our Neolithic ancestors.
~Bill Bryson

The child awakens to a universe.
The mind of the child to a world of meaning.
Imagination to a world of beauty.
Emotions to a world of intimacy.
It takes a universe to make a child
both in outer form and inner spirit.
It takes a universe to educate a child.
A universe to fulfill a child.
~ Thomas Berry

If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children.


To read other posts in this series, click click click the links. Please share your comments!

Day 1:    The Food Justice Diet
Day 2:    Alarming and Curious Statistics
Day 3:    Finish Your Plate, There are Children Starving in Ethiopia
Day 4:    The Nameless Hungry
Days 5-6:  “Where Does She Get Her Protein??”
Day 7:    One Small NGO Making a Big Impact in Ethiopia
Day 8:    The Language of Hunger
Day 9:    Plenty of Soy Solutions in Latin America
Days 10-11: Can Small-scale farming feed the world?
Day 12: Why Organic Farming?
Days 13-14: The Have and Have-Nots of Southeast Asia
Day 15: Have You Eaten Today?
Day 16: Hunger in America
Days 17 & 18: Hunger’s Dirty Little Secret
Day 19: Eat Plants
Day 20: Watch This, Read That
Day 21: The Power of Activism


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