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Hidden Hunger

Hidden Hunger: Gender and the Politics of Smarter Foods

Aya Hirata Kimura
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Hidden Hunger
    Book Description:

    For decades, NGOs targeting world hunger focused on ensuring that adequate quantities of food were being sent to those in need. In the 1990s, the international food policy community turned its focus to the "hidden hunger" of micronutrient deficiencies, a problem that resulted in two scientific solutions: fortification, the addition of nutrients to processed foods, and biofortification, the modification of crops to produce more nutritious yields. This hidden hunger was presented as a scientific problem to be solved by "experts" and scientifically engineered smart foods rather than through local knowledge, which was deemed unscientific and, hence, irrelevant.

    InHidden Hunger, Aya Hirata Kimura explores this recent emphasis on micronutrients and smart foods within the international development community and, in particular, how the voices of women were silenced despite their expertise in food purchasing and preparation. Kimura grounds her analysis in case studies of attempts to enrich and market three basic foods-rice, wheat flour, and baby food-in Indonesia. She shows the power of nutritionism and how its technical focus enhanced the power of corporations as a government partner while restricting public participation in the making of policy for public health and food. She also analyzes the role of advertising to promote fortified foodstuffs and traces the history of Golden Rice, a crop genetically engineered to alleviate vitamin A deficiencies. Situating the recent turn to smart food in Indonesia and elsewhere as part of a long history of technical attempts to solve the Third World food problem, Kimura deftly analyzes the intersection of scientific expertise, market forces, and gendered knowledge to illuminate how hidden hunger ultimately defined women as victims rather than as active agents.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6769-1
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-18)

    Shiny red and blue packages of cookies and instant noodles replete with appetizing photos and fancy logos arrived at a cluster of small shacks that constitute a tiny portion of the vast Jakarta slums. Mothers took the noodles for themselves and the cookies for their children. Although they resemble common junk food, these products are actually healthy foods according to the UN World Food Programme. They are fortified with iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins A, D, E, K, B₁, B₂, B₆, and B₁₂, and folic acid. The WFP’s enthusiasm for fortified foods is shared by the government of...

    (pp. 19-38)

    Micronutrients are not the first instance of the scientization of food security through nutritionism. Definitions of food problems have changed, and this is not necessarily because of changing circumstances in food production and consumption and scientific advancements. This brings us back to the concept of problematization, which shifts the emphasis from “the truth” to “the representation of truth.” How a social problem is defined and presented is historically contingent. The apparatus of problematization produces certain visibilities and invisibilities, creating “schemes of possible, observable, measurable, classifiable objects” (Foucault 1981, 55). By seeing it as historically specific problematization, we can understand any...

    (pp. 39-61)

    Nutritional fixes such as protein-enriched food and vitamin A pills have had their day. The contemporary nutritional fix isfortified food, which became popular in the 1990s. The popularity of fortification is intriguing because there are many ways to conceive of solutions to micronutrient deficiencies. In the lexicon of nutritional science, “micronutrient strategies” refer to a set of public health interventions to combat micronutrient deficiencies. Typical micronutrient strategies suggested by international experts to Third World governments include supplementation and dietary diversification/education in addition to fortification (Underwood 1998; Maberly, Trowbridge, and Sullivan 1994).¹ The question is why fortification among these possible...

    (pp. 62-80)

    My stories of charismatic nutrients have focused on the international stage, touching on varying roles played by organizations and scientific experts. Now I turn to the question of how charismatic nutrients become local. The following four chapters anchor the global stories of micronutrients in a local setting: overall food policy (chapter 4), mandatory fortification (chapter 5), voluntary fortification (chapter 6), and biofortification (chapter 7) in the context of Indonesia. With relatively recent exposure to fortification and biofortification, Indonesia offers a suitable site for analyzing their dynamics. It would be easy to naturalize the growing influence of micronutrients in Indonesia. The...

    (pp. 81-110)

    The world’s largest flour mill is located in an unlikely place—in Indonesia, whose population is not known for eating bread or pasta. Bogasari Flour Mill, Indonesia’s largest milling company, has the world’s largest mill, located in Tanjung Priok, the industrial zone filled with warehouses and factories in the northern port of Jakarta. Its state-of-the-art mill, silos, and other equipment are decorated with the well-known Blue Key logo that is frequently seen on supermarket shelves and on billboards in town. Its capacity is enormous, far exceeding mills in the United States or Canada. Although falling far short of Bogasari’s dominant...

    (pp. 111-138)

    Wandering through the maze of narrow streets that crisscross a Jakarta neighborhood, I finally reach Ibu Eti’s place. Dilapidated and tilted, the shack looks like it is about to collapse. There are several plastic buckets outside and a man is doing laundry, squatting. I meet Ibu Eti and some of her five children. Ibu Eti’s husband is the one who is doing laundry. He does it now because he lost his job. I ask what Ibu Eti does, and she hesitates a bit before saying that she begs on the street. When she became pregnant with the fifth child, she...

    (pp. 139-161)

    “World Top Economists Say Biofortification One of Top Five Solutions to Global Challenges” was the triumphant headline of a 2008 press release by HarvestPlus, an organization promoting biofortification. At what was called the Copenhagen Consensus Conference, distinguished economists were invited to think about major challenges facing the world. Asked to prioritize global issues, they pinpointed HIV/AIDS, global warming, and terrorism and others along with malnutrition, which they indicated had one of the “most effective solutions” in biofortification.¹ Nonexistent fifteen years earlier, biofortification had come to enjoy widespread recognition among development practitioners by 2008.

    Biofortification uses plant-breeding technologies to develop food...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 162-172)

    A mother of four children (eleven, six, three, and two) is talking to me in a Jakarta neighborhood. She tells me: “My husband is a clerk—works at a store. He gets 15,000 Rupiah a day. But we need at least 10,000 Rupiah for food. We eatnasi uduk[rice steamed with coconut] or noodles in the morning,kentang kukus[steamed potato] for lunch, and, for evening, sometimes we eat, sometimes we don’t.” Although she looks healthy, and I note she is wearing pink lipstick, the two and three year olds are very thin and seem to have health problems....

  14. Notes
    (pp. 173-190)
  15. References
    (pp. 191-218)
  16. Index
    (pp. 219-226)