By Deborah Dimmett, The University of Arizona
This week I am in Caracol, Haiti, working at a camp that is an industrial park partially financed by USAID after the 2010 earthquake. It is hours away from Port-au-Prince where the earthquake occurred and is an attempt to provide factory jobs and low cost housing to Haitians. The industrial park was not constructed without controversy. Haitians who work for the textile factory work long days at a rate of $5 a day. They have to purchase their home, pay for all utilities, and eat with whatever income is left. It’s difficult to imagine how they manage and even more difficult to understand the logic of neoliberal trade agreements that allow large companies like Levi-Strauss to pay so little to those who have few means for their daily sustenance. In fact, meals are sparse, often with little nutritional value but high in carbohydrates and fat so that people can sustain a long work day on only one meal.
The 26 Americans who participate in the camp find the diet difficult. Our first day was an eye-opener as we struggled to understand why fried spaghetti is a traditional Haitian breakfast. As many of us barely touched our food, I looked around and saw children and teens scarf up theirs. Americans can always return to the U.S. and eat anything we choose. Haitians, on the other hand, have such a limited diet that most are malnourished and destined to have health problems caused by a high fat, high sodium diet.
Hunger and poverty are problems throughout the world. For most of us, this is not part of our experience. Children’s and young adult authors have the opportunity to help us understand these problems as we try to grasp what it would be like to not know when or how we will eat or feed our families. Hunger and poverty are not often explored in children’s and YA literature; however, these topics are increasingly becoming more important as the changing political landscape demonstrates how much we allow our leaders to drive policies that limit assistance to the most vulnerable.
In the past, WOW Currents has covered books for young people that touch on hunger and poverty. For example, last month Seemi Aziz discussed global poverty as reflected in picturebooks. I welcome readers to share titles of books for children, adolescents, and young adults they would recommend that explore these two topics. Suggested titles can be left here in the comments or sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will compile suggestions into a list to be posted here on the WOW website.