Science - November 17, 2005

Minimum meal

‘Two-thirds of the population in my country lives on less than the minimum amount of calories required daily,’ announces James Maranga from Kenya. ‘Food is not distributed equally in the world. To make people aware of this, tonight we are going to eat a ‘fair minimum’ of calories.’

‘We wanted to let students eat the minimum amount of food that each inhabitant of this planet should get, if all available food were distributed fairly,’ explains Maranga. ‘In theory there should be enough for everyone.’ Otherwise, the student organisation for sustainable international development, has organised the dinner this evening as a follow-up to the World Food Day in October.

The meal is based on four basic foods from four continents: rice, potatoes, beans and cassava are staple foods in Asia, Europe, America and Africa. Local recipes for healthy and nutritious meals have been used. How much you are allowed to put on your plate is difficult to determine. But nobody’s checking: the idea is to have an enjoyable evening.

It’s not clear whether it’s the minimum calorie requirements that end up on the plate. The many international students present are having a good time and appreciate the idea, they say. No one seemed terribly interested in the introductory presentation about the world food problem. Femke Batterink was surprised though to hear that the minimum calorie requirement is 2300 kcals per day per person – she finds that high.

After African soup with bread for starters, there is a self-service buffet with no calorie counting. Once four tables have filled their plates, it’s the turn of the last table to serve themselves. There’s almost no food left: it’s the world food problem in a nutshell. There is laughter. ‘If anyone is still hungry, we’ve still got desert to come, but don’t forget that many in the world experience this hunger every day,’ calls out an Otherwise organiser. It doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm. / MV