$295 For A Hamburger???

Yesterday’s column in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof took my breath.  Literally.  I was all set to write this morning’s post about the political circus that has taken over our lives, but … Kristof’s column simply must be shared.  I warn you, it is not an easy read, for it is heart-breaking and enraging all at once, but it is well worth reading.  As he ends his column:  Something’s wrong with this picture.

The World’s Malnourished Kids Don’t Need a $295 Burger

A quarter of the world’s children are stunted from inadequate diets.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

June 12, 2019


A child at the Casa Jackson Hospital for Malnourished Children, in Antigua, Guatemala.CreditCredit Daniele Volpe for The New York Times

ANTIGUA, Guatemala — Raúl is a happy preschooler, tumbling around among 4- and 5-year-olds, but something is off.

It’s not his behavior, for it’s the same as that of the other little kids. Rather, it’s his face. The baby fat is gone, and although he’s only 3 feet 5 inches tall, the height of an average 5-year-old, an older face seems grafted on.

Sure enough, Raúl turns out to be 9. Malnutrition has left his body and mind badly stunted. He’s one of almost one-quarter of all children worldwide who are stunted from malnutrition.

Here in Guatemala, almost half of children are stunted. In some Mayan villages, it’s 70 percent.

In another world, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the restaurant Serendipity 3  offers a $295 hamburger. Alternatively, it sells a $214 grilled cheese sandwich and a $1,000 sundae.

“Stunting is probably the best marker of child health inequality,” Dr. Kirsten Austad of the Maya Health Alliance told me. “Stunting is a key driver of intergenerational poverty.”

The big problem with stunting from malnutrition isn’t that people are short but that they often have impaired brain development.

“He’s like a 5-year-old,” Rina Lazo Rodríguez, director of the Casa Jackson Hospital for Malnourished Children, said of Raúl. He is now living at the hospital and has never attended school, and staff members aren’t sure to what extent he can recover physically or mentally.

Studies find that malnourished children do less well in school, and the mental impairment is visible in brain scans.

The implication is that billions of I.Q. points are lost to malnutrition, and that the world’s greatest unexploited resource is not oil or gold but the minds of hungry children.

For the diner who has everything, restaurants offer gold in food. A Dubai restaurant, for example, has sold a cupcake enveloped in gold leaf. The gold is tasteless (and nontoxic), so its only purpose is extravagant novelty and a glittering price — in this case, more than $1,000 per cupcake.

I’m on my annual win-a-trip journey, in which I take a university student with me on a reporting trip. This year the winner is Mia Armstrong of Arizona State University, and we’ve been dropping in on villagers in rural Guatemala — and seeing stunning levels of malnutrition. The problem isn’t just shortage of calories but of vital micronutrients, like zinc, iron, iodine and vitamin A.

Alas, the most boring word in the English language may be “micronutrients.” And boring causes don’t get addressed or funding.

One girl we met, Ingrid, was 14 years old and 4 feet 7 inches tall. I asked her if she was in school.

“I dropped out in the first grade,” she said.

I asked her to write her name in my notebook.

“I can’t write my name,” she responded.

Sotheby’s last year auctioned off a bottle of wine, a Romanée Conti 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The label was stained and there were signs of seepage, but the single bottle sold for $558,000.

Shawn Baker of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation refers to “the 45 percent-1 percent disconnect.” As he explained: “Malnutrition is the underlying cause of 45 percent of deaths in children under 5, yet less than 1 percent of global foreign assistance goes to addressing undernutrition.

“The bulk of the damage is done in the first 1,000 days — from conception through two years of life — and that damage is largely irreversible.” Aside from cognitive impairment, stunted children grow up to have more health problems in adulthood, and stunted women deliver smaller babies, sometimes perpetuating the poverty cycle.

The Ranch in Malibu, Calif., offers a luxury nine-night weight-loss program for $11,400 per person.

Nutrition programs are extremely cheap. often among the most cost-effective ways to fight global poverty.

School feeding programs promote education as well as nutrition, and cost just 25 cents per child per meal. Deworming costs about 50 cents per child per year to improve both nutrition and health, yet pets in the U.S. are more likely to be dewormed than children in many other places.

As Mia noted in a separate article, one nutrition initiative could save up to 800,000 lives a year and requires no electricity, refrigeration or high technology. It’s simply support for breast-feeding.

Fortifying foods with iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin A is transformative. Ensuring that children are screened for malnutrition and promptly helped with supplements that are similar to peanut butter is fairly straightforward. Yet malnourished children aren’t a priority, so kids are stunted in ways that will hold back our world for many decades to come.

If some distant planet sends foreign correspondents to Earth, they will be baffled that we allow almost one child in four to be stunted, even as we indulge in gold leaf cupcakes, $1,000 sundaes and half-million-dollar bottles of wine.

“In 2018, an estimated 60 percent of cats and 56 percent of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese. Pet obesity remains a serious health threat.” — Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

Something’s wrong with this picture.

Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The Times since 2001. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes, for his coverage of China and of the genocide in Darfur. You can sign up for his free, twice-weekly email newsletter and follow him on Instagram@NickKristof Facebook

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33 thoughts on “$295 For A Hamburger???

    • Trump and associates don’t understand because they choose not to take off their blinders. But, in truth, these days I think it’s six of one, half dozen of the other whether they would be better to stay in Guatemala or migrate to the U.S., for the treatment they get here may be no better than at home. Six children have died thus far in “protective” custody. Thousands remain separated from their parents. 😥 It is the shame of our nation. Sigh.


  1. Jill, Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn are pertinent and poignant writers. It is shameful a small few can waste money on food, while the same amount could feed so many. Former PM Hosni Mubarek of Egypt was a very wealthy man from skimming off the top, while the average Egyptian lived on $2 a day. Corruption is a global problem that impacts all, even here in the US. Keith

    Liked by 4 people

    • I wasn’t aware that his wife was also a writer … is she, too, a journalist? Yes, corruption is a global problem and I’m beginning to wonder if there are ANY honest leaders on the globe. Perhaps Trudeau? How do we fix this? Or can we fix it?


      • Oh please don’t mention Trudump! Just (in) other Trump boot licker, misogynist and selective racist, another elitist playboy whose only reason for holding his position is because the Conservatives (read Repugnicans) are worse. Of course Canadians have real choices such as NDP’s or Greens but the programming says vote only duopoly and the brainwash always wins… The only difference between TruDump and tRump is one openly loves Islam’s Sharia law misogynist policies while the other pretends not to.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Jill. The things you mention and the programs to help fix them are real and are important. However there are local children going hungry, local medical needs not being provided for, local homelessness that is being ignored. If kids in school can be refused lunch because they are poor what chance do we have of getting wealthy people to pay for kids in other countries. Here we offer tax breaks and other incentives for the wealthy to help out, and while some do it is normally the ones with a lot less who do the helping. It normally is the less well off who come and give what they can to help the others. I want all these problems solved, for these poor children in other countries and in our own. Again I look to the Scandinavian countries that do not have these problem and wonder why social programs to help the people are respect there, and so vilified here? Our country has gone backwards and regressive so much, maybe we have a lot of stunted people here also? Hugs

    Liked by 4 people

    • I have a serious problem with praising any wealthy individual for letting a tiny fraction of their loot go to charitable causes. First, who were the ones most exploited to make that loot possible? Minimum wage poor, you need the poor to make extraordinary profits. Second it is a well known fact that a billionaire will make more on tax breaks than s/he will ‘donate’ through registered so-called foundations. Makes good press though and keeps the victims cheering for their oppressors. We give them our labour, time,health. We give them public resources. We sacrifice our environment for them Then we tighten our belts and our children’s, in order to pay their taxes… and then we praise them. Now that’s scintillating intelligence.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hello Sha’Tara. I agree. I thought I expressed as much in my comment. I am confused about one thing you wrote. What does “Now that’s scintillating intelligence.” mean, as I don’t praise them for doing less than non-wealthy do and I am not sure others do either? Instead I think the point is to try to keep them accountable for that wealthy / society. Hugs

        Liked by 1 person

        • I was being my fully sarcastic self on the observable level of the average Earthian intelligence. Amazing how few can recognize or accept that they’re being had endlessly. Even more amazing how many seem to love being made total fools of, example their belief that voting in a bought and paid for duopoly is a good thing to do.

          Liked by 2 people

    • I cannot argue with what you say, for as I have often said, I think that I, on a fixed income and struggling to even buy insulin, give more to charities than some people who have millions in the bank. I’d bet money that I’ve donated more than Trump has. But … there are soooooo many causes, so many people in need ’round the world, that unless EVERYONE who can, helps, then there will always still be needs to be met. I would love all the problems to be solved, but you and I? We’re only two people, Scottie … our best will never be enough. This is why I am a strong advocate of a very high tax rate for the wealthy. They don’t want to give voluntarily? Fine, then we’ll take it in taxes. BUT … then it is up to the government to ensure those funds are spent where they get the biggest bang for the buck. Hugs!!!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I noticed the de-worming for 50 cents per child. Things have gotten a bit better here. Although I am sure doctors will still insist on multiple tests before they will authorize worm medication, the price has dropped precipitously since the last time I checked.
    Disclosure: we have had a lot of cats – so that we each had worms is less surprising than you might think. It cost us $12 each.
    Looks like Biltricide is currently going for less than $100. Last time I checked it was going for about $1,600, so it is better.
    Why Biltricide? It’s the brand name of WHOs recommended meds.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Because of technology many people are now made aware of human conditions in other parts of the world. They can see, if they want to, how one side affects the other and there is no doubt that Western empires have been, and continue to be, predatory and parasitic. But left to their own devices, would these victims of Western imperialism do any better for themselves? History says… not at all. The problem is in the human heart and mind (and note I’m using the term “human” incorrectly but according to usage. A “human” lives humanely. Earthian are pseudo-human). The Earthian creature is evil at its core. This was noted thousands of years ago and nothing has changed. In fact, if anything, the modern (Western) versions are even worse once separated from the ‘politically correct’ veneer of their Christian religions and democratic delusions. It’s not a question of Western imperialism versus the victimized ‘rest of the world’ but a mindset problem within all Earthians. The fact is, the vast majority simply possesses no empathy. They cannot feel others, only themselves – exceptions noted and those have never managed to gain a topmost position in order to force a change upon the rest. Earthians in general are the parasites, not just some factions.

    Liked by 4 people

    • It’s hard to say what would happen to people in third world countries if not for interference by the West, but I think that there can be no doubt that Western, industrialized nations could … could, if they chose, make a huge, positive difference to the people in those countries. Unfortunately, we don’t choose to because … well, two reasons, I think. One, greed. Those who have the money, who are raking it in, want more for themselves and really don’t see outside their own perimeters. Two, the rise of nationalism is rather like what I have always called ‘me-ism’, only on a grander scale. People are pushing back against globalism, globalism being not much beyond the shrinking of the world through modern technology. People are resorting to tribalism, and the people in Cambodia or Guatemala are not of their tribe, their skin is the wrong colour, and so, they are considered “inferior”, and in some cases, “the enemy”. As for the Earthian creature … yeah, I know a few, but … I’m pleased to report that I am not one! I am from another dimension altogether! The Earthians are disgusting creatures and I avoid them whenever possible. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve heard it said that earth is a zoo. I’ve also heard it said that just outside our little solar system there is a great big sign in all galactic languages warning any approaching sentience that earth is peopled by the most dangerous and poisonous species of pseudo-humans known, therefore the entire system is under galactic quarantine…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Third world countries are populated by mostly “brown” people…..there’s a HUGE reason for the lily-white Americans with oodles of money to give NOT giving where it is needed. I can’t say what reasons there may be behind peoples of other nations not giving. I have to say after being in Guatemala with doctors without borders and then with Casas Por Christos, the ones assisting with nutritional programs are in order of assistance we saw:
    The Catholic Church, Casas Por Christos, Docs without borders and DELL. Too many kids there are tiny, slow thinking and so, so grateful for something to eat. Granted the years I was there, much rain happened and crops actually grew….but it was a “once in a lifetime event” according to a nun that has spent her life there. Global weather has changed so dramatically that corn will no longer grow in what used to be thought of as a second garden of eden. People are starving. That’s the biggest reason why parents are sending their children here…….

    Liked by 7 people

    • You hit the nail on the head … it is racist, bigoted thinking, but then far too many engage in such thinking. The other thing, though, is simple arrogance. Those who have much money that they could help others with, live in ivory towers and wear blinders so that they do not have to see the poor, the disabled, etc. If I close my eyes, I won’t see it, and therefore it won’t exist. Not all wealthy are that way, and my hat is off to the 200 or so who have signed The Giving Pledge, including Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and others. But for far too many, those at the low end of the economic spectrum simply do not matter. I am familiar with the organizations you mention, and have written a post or two about Doctors without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières, but you mention DELL … is that the computer company, or a different organization that I am not aware of?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. In this day and age with all the knowledge there is out there as well as money given in charitable donations, how can this still be happening. Buying the ultimate indulgences can’t be as rewarding as putting the right food in a child’s mouth.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Greed and arrogance seems to increase as people’s income and wealth increases. They turn a blind eye to that which is not convenient to their desired lifestyle. Spending nearly $300 for a hamburger when that money could have fed a few hundred children for a day is hedonistic, it is, best I can tell, for bragging rights only. To “keep up with the Joneses”, to publicly display their wealth. They don’t care about starving children, homeless people or any of those less wealthy than they. And this is why I have no use for the uber-wealthy. Grrrrrrrrrr.

      Liked by 2 people

      • btw, I have a Welsh speaking client and I asked her what ‘cwtch’ means, she said it’s a space under the stairs in a house. During the blitz when the people couldn’t get to the local shelter they would huddle in the ‘cwtch’… (She was 8 during the blitz.) Maybe that word means different things?

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Sadly, the third world continues to suffer poverty, disease, climate disasters of flood and drought, while the first world continues to Rob them of their earth resources (mining in particular) and living fat off the proceeds. It is parasitic.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Several years ago I posted https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/good-enough-for-jesus/ in reaction to a Neil Cavuto interview on Fox News. It began with scorn for low income residents of New York using food stamps to purchase fresh seafood. It continued with admonishment of food stamps used to purchase organic produce and outrage directed at the supposed food stamp holder who tried to purchase bait with food stamps so he could go Bass fishing. Next came this –
    NEIL CAVUTO: Bailouts from cradle to grave, Connecticut Democrats pushing for the government to pay for diapers for low-income families with babies.
    NEIL CAVUTO GUEST #1: If they choose diapers, what’s next? Toothpaste? Car seats?
    NEIL CAVUTO GUEST #2 (10/26/2011): If you can’t afford these new-fangled diapers, what’s wrong with going back to old school? … The swaddling cloths were good enough for Baby Jesus, they’re probably good enough for your baby too.

    My point being – ignorance runs deep in America. These people don’t care about malnutrition, poverty is a nuisance, a blight on society worthy of haughty scorn. They profess Biblical superiority, blither moral high ground, pass judgement on low income families – by what stretch of imagination would they care about stunted growth? It’s disgusting. Sigh.

    Liked by 5 people

    • You are quite right … lately I have come to realize as never before that there are three predominant evils in much of the U.S.: greed, arrogance and ignorance. I stop short of painting the nation with a broad brush, however, for the majority of us are not like that, but rather a 30%-40% minority who see themselves as “better than” those with darker skin, a different religion, different gender orientation, or less wealth. Those bigots are the shame of this nation.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh Jill, this really brings it home how far the divide is between the wealthy and impoverished people.
    Gold cupcakes …burgers that sell for three figures, all while others are dying from malnutrition. It’s insane and disgusting. 😢.

    Liked by 7 people

    • It is a striking contrast, isn’t it? I cannot imagine people who would pay nearly $300 for a burger, or $1,000 for a milkshake! They should be ashamed of such a foolish waste of money when people are going to bed hungry and would just be happy for a bowl of rice. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that it is a rarity to find compassion and intellect among the uber-wealthy. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

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