Andrew Zimmern: The most revolting thing I’ve found

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Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, is standing with ONE against energy poverty in Africa. Photo credit: sidereel.com

Chef, foodie and activist Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, is standing with ONE to take action against energy poverty in Africa. In a USA Today op-ed, he reflects on the relationship between poverty and lack of electricity, which he has witnessed firsthand during his culinary adventures:

“Millions of people have seen me on television eating outrageous things, perhaps thinking I was born without a gag reflex. But you’d be wrong. I’ve been to 126 countries and the most revolting thing I’ve found is extreme poverty. The gap between those who have and those who don’t is abhorrent, and the most repulsive part is that it’s unnecessary.

It’s staggering the amount of vegetables and meat I’ve seen rotting on the streets of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s countryside has vast tracts of arable land, but, like many places around the world, the issue is collection, storage and distribution of the foods. That can’t happen without reliable electric systems.

In addition to food waste due to lack of electricity, he shares an example of its negative effect on health:

“Much of the food I eat on assignment is cooked over open fires because of the lack of household electricity. Many of those fires are indoors. Not only is this a fire hazard — I once saw a fire take out a three-story residential building in a Bolivian slum in about 20 minutes — it’s also a medical catastrophe. Exposure to this kind of toxic smoke causes more than 3 million premature respiratory deaths worldwide. That’s more deaths than those caused by malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.”

At the end of his piece, he urges Americans to see the connection between energy access and extreme poverty:

“Energy access is the foundation for development and it alleviates poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and disease. The people I’ve met living in energy poverty are not looking for handouts. They aren’t necessarily food poor, cash poor or asset poor. They want to support their families and communities by working hard. Fortunately, as Americans, we can help them get there.

Read the full op-ed on USA Today here.