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Problemshifting and the Myth of Food Shortages

Every few months, there are stories about an impending food crisis. From the death of the humble banana, to the loss of fertile farming land to doomsday stories of outbreaks at food production plants, there are plenty of things to be afraid of. Yet the truth, proven by facts and data, is that the world is growing more than enough food to feed all of us, it’s just in the wrong places, too expensive or inaccessible. Rather than worrying about not having enough food, a segment from NPR this week posed a different question from Purdue University economist Tom Hertel: “can we produce enough food in a way that doesn’t destroy the environment?”

This is a perfect example of problemshifting – finding new solutions by changing the problem we aim to solve. 

What if instead of trying to solve the PERCEIVED problem of a lack of food, we instead focused on the REAL problem of reducing the barriers that currently exist keeping food from reaching the people who need it most, by making that food cheaper, more accessible and produced in a more environmentally sustainable way. It’s an important exercise to continually think not only about how to develop solutions, but whether we should be asking different questions in the first place.

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