Feeding 7 billion
How food impacts communities around the world
“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.”
Father Luke Nguyen visits the thriving garden of one of his parishioners in 2010. The Versailles Community of East New Orleans is predominately immigrants from Vietnam. Using their agrarian roots, they transformed front yards and backyards into full scale gardens. After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, this community was one of the first to recover due mainly to their ability to have a secure food system.
A hot dog stand in Montgomery, Alabama has served lunch for decades to passing businessmen.
A young boy prepares to slaughter his family cow at a community slaughterhouse in Nahuala, Guatemala. The majority of the meat will be sold at the market and a small portion will feed his family. 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.
Zeb Engstrom holds a newborn calf on the family ranch while the mother watches from behind. It’s feast or famine every season in northern Montana for many families. The freezing temperatures often kill many newborns. The first night is the hardest according to Zeb. If the calf can survive the night, odds are it will grow into an adult and be sold to a slaughterhouse while the Engstroms will make enough to cover the costs of the farm.
A man sells pastries near the Malecon at sunset in Havana, Cuba. Many locals sell homemade food as means to supplement their low, fixed income from the Cuban government.
Lau Group, Fiji. Holding a sea urchin gently, Chancela Ni Tu Lau, 11, stands on an empty inner reef. Almost every afternoon, she and others patrol this rich habitat and discover new organisms with every change in the tide. Distinctly unique habitats are created within each of the three tidal patterns: low tide, high tide, and mid tide.
The original coffee plant can be traced back to Ethiopia. Farmers in Yirgacheffe sort beans at a drying facility. 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. MICHAEL HANSON
A boat speeds through the waters off the coast of Tofino, British Columbia, Canada near a salmon open net-cage. Raising salmon in this fashion degrades the marine ecosystem thrugh disease, and algae blooms while threatening the sustainability of wild salmon populations.
Students milk a goat at the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, Michigan. Teacher Paul Weertz began a one-of-a-kind curriculum that combines hands-on farm experience with classroom science for teenage mothers and mothers-to-be.
Coffee buyers and sellers negotiate the price in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When a sale price is agreed upon, the buyer and seller high five as a formal agreement. Here, a man attempts to bully his way into their hands slapping.
A CAFO (consolidated animal feeding operation) packs thousands of chickens under its roof in northern Alabama. Often times, the owners of these farms are perpetually in debt to the large chicken buyers who continue to enforce new regulations and demand new equipment.
A man pours a woman her daily ration, or Libreta de Abastecimiento, in Cuba. This form of food distribution was installed in 1962 and still exists in many parts of Cuba today. For children under seven years old, the allowable amount of milk to be provided is one liter per day. 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.”
A young Amish family harvests the last tomatoes of the season from the backyard garden. Eighty percent of their diet comes from the community in which they live. Amish communities are often reluctant of outsiders and work hard to keep their food system local.
At Olson’s Meats and Smokehouse in Enumclaw, Washington, a man prepares a fresh deer carcass for the butcher shop.
The Chattahoochee River that runs in Rusty Blackburn’s backyard is one of the most threatened in the country. It’s the reason the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing Florida’s lawsuit against Georgia. But right now, the fire is raging and there are two catfish to fry. Paula Blackburn has made homemade tartar sauce and there’s no work tomorrow. That’s cause enough for a celebration tonight.
The salt pools of Maras in the Sacred Valley of Peru have provided salt since the Inca times. By directing incoming salty streams to a series of ponds, salt crystallizes as evaporation occurs. The ponds are open to all members of the community. Food has a story. Maybe it’s of landscape or people, environmentally positive or detrimental, but all our food has a story, and each one is unique. MICHAEL HANSON
The Gustafsons are in the middle of the most stressful time of the year: calving season. They alternate shifts in the pens and sleep only a few hours per day. However, they manage to meet at the dinner table nightly to enjoy a meal. The steak is local; it comes from the front yard.
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.