28 Nov, 2018

Hunger is Driving Migration: Interview with Danielle Nierenberg

What is pushing Africans to risk their lives by crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats? According to Danielle Nierenberg, founder and president of the Food Tank Think Tank and the editor of the new book Nourished Planet, the answer comes down to one word – food.
Because both Latin America and Africa cannot feed themselves, their populations head north. Their destinations, Europe and the United States, subsidize farm exports and produce too much food, but too little nutritional food. Even Italians, the inventors of the famed nutritious Mediterranean diet, today consumer increasing amounts of junk food.
Danielle Nierenberg spoke to us Barilla Foundation on Food and Nutrition in Milan on November 27-28.


1. Nourished Planet is a masterplan for sustainable agriculture and nutrition. Which chapters do you consider particularly useful to understand some of the drivers of migration?
Our first section on Food for All is particularly relevant for understanding the drivers of migration—climate change, conflict, poverty all contributes to driving migration.

2. Food insecurity has been identified as the main push factor of international migration to the United States from Central America. How is it possible to reduce the pressure on resources in the Dry Corridor of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras?

Governments should invest more in smallholder agriculture and help create ways to make agriculture more attractive for youth. Farming needs to be something that young people want to do, rather than something they feel forced to do. Making rural areas more economically and intellectually stimulating for young people and increasing access to technology like broadband or cell phones will help keep people in their communities.

3. Looking at the Mediterranean region, what kind of nutritional challenges are facing the countries of the basin? And what impact will they have on traditional food consumption models such as the much-celebrated Mediterranean diet?

Unfortunately, that region of the world is experiencing many of the same problems as other parts of the world. Despite the advantages of the Mediterranean Diet for improving health, there has been a growth in the consumption of junk food and processed food that are high in fat, salt, and sugar. And there is less conviviality and sharing meals. Many countries like Italy are seeing the impacts of this transition with increasing rates of overweight and obesity, particularly among children.

4. Nowadays the Mediterranean area is characterized by major migratory flows and rapid urbanization. Do you believe that urban agriculture can help reduce pressures on its food supplies?

I think there is a lot of opportunity for urban agriculture and community gardens to help immigrants regain a taste of their culture and help improve their own health and their health of the communities.

5. Speaking more broadly, what kind of solutions have emerged from the latest BCFN forum in New York to tackle food insecurity, either from a local and global perspective?

I think it’s clear from the BCFN Forums that we need to a more integrated approach to solving not only hunger, but obesity, food waste, poverty, conflict, and climate change—we need to break down silos and make sure that businesses, governments, farmers, and eaters are all talking and working together to solve our most pressing environmental and social challenges. By bringing together global leaders, advocates, and activists like Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Bob Geldof, Raj Patel, and others, BCFN is helping bring all sides of the debate together. This is the kind of dialogue needed to make sure the food system helps nourish both people and the planet.

Danielle Nierenberg is president and co-founder of Food Tank and a world-renowned expert on all issues relating to food systems and agriculture. In 2018, she edited Nourished Planet, a collection of essays and interviews from international experts and advocates offering a global plan for feeding the planet sustainably.