World Food Day: Must-Watch Documentaries

Every day, one in nine people around the world go hungry. That’s more than 820 million people who do not have enough food to support a healthy, productive lifestyle – despite the fact that the world produces enough food to feed every single one of us.

On October 16, 1945, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) was established. The organisation’s logo is a blade of wheat and its Latin motto, “fiat panis”, translates to “let there be bread”; an apt representation of the work the FAO has undertaken since its inception, with the lead focus of eliminating world hunger.

For almost four decades, October 16 has been celebrated to raise awareness of the FAO’s main working areas, including building sustainable agriculture and fishery industries, eliminating poverty, implementing inclusive agriculture foundations and the aforementioned goal of reducing, and eventually abolishing malnutrition, food insecurity and hunger.

To mark World Food Day, Al Jazeera looks back at some of our most memorable food-related documentaries, from the celebration of the intrinsically-linked relationship between food and culture to the problems with inflation on the most basic of foodstuffs and the politics of food in the heart of conflict zones.

A Taste of Conflict: The Politics of Food in Jerusalem

The ancient city of Jerusalem is sacred to three different faiths: For Jews, it is the site of their first holy temple, for Christians, it is the scene of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection and for Muslims, it is the location of the Prophet Muhammad’s ascent to heaven.

A site of vast historical and religious significance, this beautiful city is also a tragic one – fought over for centuries and coveted by millions who have never set foot in it. It is at the heart of the ongoing and seemingly unsolvable Israeli-Palestinian conflict and everything there is overshadowed by politics.

In the struggle for the soul of a city, even food – a marker of identity, an expression of history, culture, and values – plays a part, and the roots of certain foods are fiercely debated. For Palestinians, denied a state and with a national identity which is constantly undermined, food plays an even greater role in defining who they are.

Part of our Street Food series, this film looks into whether food really can help to bridge political and religious divides.

South Korea: Kimchi Crazy

Each night BJ Fitness Fairy eats enough for three people in front of a webcam watched by thousands of viewers. She is one of thousands who are a part of this culinary e-commerce mania.

Critics say this bizarre trend is a symptom of widespread unhappiness and a rise of one-person households in South Korea. They believe it’s also a consequence of the government’s fanatic push to use food as a band-aid after decades of conflict and colonisation.

But the country’s love of food is also changing gender stereotypes. Cooking shows are inspiring men to enter the kitchen.

Al Jazeera’s 101 East gets a taste of South Korea’s dietary craze and poses the question: has the country’s love of food transformed into an unhealthy obsession? 

Hungry for Change: New York’s Food Insecurity Crisis

Food is at the core of human survival – it can be at the heart of a family’s traditions and the key to a nation’s cultural identity.

It has also been the source of war, conflict and devastation. Natural disasters can wipe out the food supply of an entire country.

But what happens when you live in the largest economy in the world, where food is ever abundant and yet you may still go to bed at night hungry?

In this film, we follow a 19-year-old homeless Nigerian immigrant on a journey through New York City to reveal what it means to be truly food insecure in the land of plenty.

India: The Republic of Hunger 

In 2012, more than 40 percent of India’s 61 million children were considered malnourished, prompting then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare the problem a “national shame”.

A report from the same year revealed that levels were twice that of sub-Saharan Africa, making every third malnourished child in the world an Indian.

India has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and runs one of the largest child feeding programmes. But critics say only a fraction of aid reaches the needy.

In this film, 101 East travels to India and asks what the country is doing to feed its millions.

Ghana: Food for Thought

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), in 2014 four out of 10 children under the age of five in northern Ghana were chronically malnourished, meaning they would not be able to meet their full growth potential. Some of them, to put it even more starkly, will die for lack of food.

This is why, despite its sunnier long-term economical prospects – mostly revolving around the discovery of oil in 2010 – Ghana still receives tens of millions of dollars worth of food aid from the international community.

But while these generous annual donations, from the WFP and others, are carefully calculated to provide sustenance to all those in dire need, somehow they never prove to be enough.

So what happens to all the food that is donated? Are the deficits merely the consequence of some bureaucratic hold-up in the supply chain or are there more sinister forces at work?

In this Africa Investigates film, Ghanaian journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas sets out in search of the answers and unveils a truly shocking tale of theft and corruption.

Istanbul: Turkish Cuisine at a Crossroads 

Istanbul sits at the point of intersection between Europe and Asia and its food has been heavily influenced by its rich history and traditions: the palace food from the Ottoman times, the Armenian and Greek influences and that from Anatolia.

Although Istanbul is often visited for its past, it’s very much a modern metropolis. In a buzzing city with 14 million inhabitants, the food scene is also booming. Twenty-five percent of the city’s population is employed one way or another in the food business and many young people are creating opportunities for themselves from its rich gastronomic history.

Part of our AJEats series, this film explores how food became such a strong part of the culture, and what the future holds for Istanbul’s food lovers in a world of fast food and mass production.

Egypt: On the Breadline

Bread is a matter of life and death in Egypt. It’s a recognised staple in the diets of most Egyptians and its demand and supply have major social and political implications.

The former Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak governments all grappled with decreasing production and increased demand – and the Sisi government has pledged to end corruption as a whole, including in the wheat industry. So, in 2014, it introduced a smart card-based subsidy programme aimed at helping those most in need.

The government claims that the new programme has helped to save three-quarters of a million dollars a year. Critics say it has simply increased fraud by enabling bakers to falsify receipts and request far more subsidised flour than they actually sell, costing the country millions of dollars a year.

How is Egypt’s wheat problem likely to play out for those most affected by it? This 2016 Al Jazeera World film investigates the state of Egypt as it sits on the breadline.

Source: Al Jazeera

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