- Beginning to End Hunger: Food and the Environment in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Beyond by M. Jahi Chappell
M. jahi chappell has crafted a stimulating book that challenges the conventional thinking that hunger cannot be ended. The essence of the book focuses on the case of Belo Horizonte (BH), a city of over 2 million people (5 million in greater metropolitan region), capital of the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Here, during the later 1990s and 2000s, a set of government and linked NGOs, structures, and programs were in place that together reduced hunger in the city in unprecedented and unthinkable ways (e.g. hospitalizations due to malnutrition were reduced by 60 percent). What makes this case particularly interesting is that attention is paid not just to reducing hunger in the city, but to the sustainability of the entire regional food system. By considering these links, Chappell demonstrates that hunger can be reduced in the city together with supporting the economic viability of nearby rural communities. Chappell also considers general environmental concerns inherent in food production and its typically long and environmentally unfriendly production chains. Chappell unpacks this unlikely story and provides considerable context for how it came to be, was successful, and the challenges in sustaining it. Although it is more of a sociologically focused book, it has much of interest to geographers working on questions of sustainable food systems, food justice, hunger, and urban geography.
The book is divided into a foreword by [End Page 195] France Moore Lappé, the author's preface, and six chapters. The first two chapters provide background to the problem as well as challenges to the perennial and pernicious productivist explanations of how to end hunger and the "problem" of how the ever-growing world population will be fed. Chappell lays out his "Eight Simple Rules for Understanding Global Food Systems" which are an explicit parallel to Lappé and Collins's World Hunger:10 Myths (2015), but with some variation. This chapter is strong, and makes a compelling case for why it is possible to end hunger, by very clearly and concretely debunking the productivist perspective as the "usual" approach to eliminating world hunger which still pervades many popular media circles. This chapter is very useful for anyone teaching about food systems as a way for students to get beyond the productivity approach. In an interesting semantic twist, Chappell introduces the reader to the terms Minority/Majority World (following Shahidul Alam) to differentiate between richer and poorer countries, as the Minority World lives in rich countries; the Majority World lives in not-rich countries. Chappell also introduces the reader to the idea of "active optimism" an idea derived from Herbert de Souza, a Brazilian sociologist, and embodied in the practices of many of the people involved in the anti-hunger programs in BH. This is an important point: "ending world hunger" is often treated as an intractable "wicked problem" that is not solvable, and the belief that hunger can be overcome is treated as naïve or unrealistic.
Next, Chappell reviews various approaches ("tendencies") that have been tried to solve world hunger. His own framing settles on the use of an idea from the Brazilian nutritional economist Cecilia Rocha, the "Five A's of Food security: Availability, Accessibility, Adequacy, Acceptability and Agency." The chapter is a bit overthought, and the reader is easily lost in the hierarchy of thought and argument that Chappell tries to lead us through. But in so doing, the reader is exposed to concepts and ideas about food security, food justice, food sovereignty. This too can be a useful chapter for those who teach food related courses.
Chapters three and four provide the reader with detailed empirical information through which Chappell describes and analyzes the way that BH's food secretariat (SMASAN) engaged in policy entrepreneurship, as well...