David Rieff ’78
David Rieff ’78

In 2000, the prices of food staples such as wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans had fallen to a record low. Some experts assumed the trend would continue, and access to inexpensive food for the three billion people who survive on less than two dollars a day would drastically improve.

However, “they could not have been more wrong,” David Rieff ’78 writes in The Reproach of Hunger. By 2008, the global food crisis was in full bloom — the price of wheat, for example, had risen by 130 percent. This spelled disaster for the many for whom food staples are often not just one part of a varied diet but the only buffer between survival and starvation. Though more than enough food is produced to feed everyone on the planet, food prices continue to swing to record-breaking highs and lows, thanks to factors such as climate change and the use of crops for livestock feed and fuel instead of food, writes Rieff, who spent six years reporting the book.

Can we provide enough food for the population of 9 billion that’s projected for 2050? Is capitalism the key to ending massive malnutrition, or is the entire system in need of a major overhaul? What’s the most effective way to frame and solve issues of food security? Rieff does not have all the answers, but he does lay out questions that he believes are not being asked enough.

Publishers Weekly calls The Reproach of Hunger “impeccably researched … a stellar addition to the canon of development-policy literature.” Rieff is the author of eight other books, includingSwimming in a Sea of Death, a tribute to his mother Susan Sontag, and Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West.