SEATTLE — The small island country of Tonga is located off the east coast of Australia and has a population of about 107,000 people. Hunger in Tonga is not characterized by a lack of food, but rather by a lack of nutritious food. The people of Tonga seems to think that Western imports are superior, but the food that Tonga is receiving is actually killing its citizens.
One of the issues that Tonga faces is the high price of food. Tongan fish markets are usually filled with fish that were speared by hand. However, these fish are expensive. Many citizens will not buy the fish sold in the markets. This is also the same with fruit and vegetables. Even domestic fruit and vegetables tend to be expensive.
However, imported fatty meats seem to not have a price issue. An imported meat from New Zealand called mutton flaps is extremely popular in Tonga. The main issue with mutton flaps is that it hardly has any nutritional value. It is mostly fat with a little bit of meat on it.
However, Tongans are obsessed with this foreign product. Not only do they want mutton flaps, but Tongans seems to be romanticizing anything that is Western. Soda, fatty meats and starchy food are in demand because they are considered to be Western. Hunger in Tonga seems to be satisfied by Western luxuries. However, the foods that they now value are unhealthy and are causing health issues.
Obesity and dietary diseases in Tonga are at an all-time high. It is estimated that about 40 percent of Tongans are suffering from non-communicable diseases that are linked to poor dietary habits.
Poor diet is not the only issue that plagues Tongans. It seems that there is some genetic predisposition that makes Pacific Islanders tend to gain weight. Because of that, Tongans end up becoming overweight much more easily. There is also the issue that in Tongan society, it is very common to hold feasts. Being overweight is seen as a status symbol that shows you are higher in society that someone who is thin.
Although Tonga faces these issues, there are people who are willing to help. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has plans to help Tonga escape from its current problems. One of the more interesting points FAO wants to help with is with government legislation. By passing certain laws, the FAO could possibly make domestic fruit and vegetables cheaper and make foreign fatty meats more expensive. If the FAO were to succeed in doing that, it could potentially change the status quo in Tonga.
The big issues with hunger in Tonga are that domestic products are too expensive and Western products are romanticized. The people of Tonga believe that Western ideals are soda and fatty foods. If the Western world can flip that kind of thinking and make a healthy lifestyle the western ideal, then it could really help out not just Tonga, but all countries that follow a Western diet.
– Daniel Borjas