STARVING IN THE SHADOW OF PLENTY by Loretta Schwartz-Nobel

STARVING IN THE SHADOW OF PLENTY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Schwartz-Nobel's articles on starvation in Philadelphia (1974), Washington (1975), Boston (1976), and Chicago (1976) have garnered prizes; and there's no denying the horror of her vignettes--elderly folk subsisting on a daily free lunch, uncomplaining children fed only rice, malnourished women bound to give birth to defective children. But her response to their situation is to editorialize and sermonize--and to try to link it, in the book's second half, to the larger food-supply problem. Her dismay, regrettably, is undiscriminating: ""Again and again,"" she writes of the poor and hungry, ""I had. . . the same sense of outrage and sadness on their behalf--the feeling that just to keep people alive is not enough, that flowers and champagne and beautiful things also belong to life."" So is her casting of blame--for the immediate situation, on ""the 'me' generation"" and bureaucratic callousness and public indifference; for the anticipated food crisis, on the disappearance of family farms, the energy crunch, the destruction of farmland, the use of dangerous chemicals (that may have to be abandoned). The latter is ground that Frances Lappe and others have covered with far more discernment--with less emotionalism too, and more conviction. Worse, Schwartz-Nobel's attempt to link present-day need to future shortages is not only feeble and forced (e.g., a changeover from chemical agriculture ""would create additional hunger""), it distracts attention from the pressing need that she sets out to address. She does, in closing, cite worthy volunteer programs for feeding the poor--which may offer some balm to those dismayed by her disclosures. For reminding us that people are going hungry here and now, she deserves credit; but this is nowhere near a coherent or useful treatment of the problem.

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1981
Publisher: Putnam