Giada de Laurentiis marks World Food Day with trip to Peru

By jlee

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LOS ANGELES — Best-selling author and renowned celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis recently returned from a trip to Peru to visit Oxfam programs and learn about the struggles of small scale farmers, said the international aid agency today.

De Laurentiis, who has been an Oxfam America Ambassador for a year, embarked on a weeklong trip to the Cusco region of the South American country ahead of World Food Day to get to know the conditions in which the small farmers live and work and the challenges they face.

"This trip helped me really think about the faces behind the food that all of us eat, and come to understand the arduous work small scale farmers do on a daily basis," said De Laurentiis. "The pride and passion I saw in the eyes of the farmers I met—for their land, for what they do and for the food they produce—was inspiring. Hearing that they barely make enough to put food on the table for their own children was heartbreaking."

Although there is enough food grown in the world for everyone, one billion people around the world—one in every six—go hungry every day. At least 70 percent of the world's poor people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, but rising food prices, unfair trade rules, and a changing climate are extreme challenges to millions of small farmers, according to Oxfam.

"Many farmers I met spoke about increasingly unpredictable weather that makes growing potatoes harder every season," said De Laurentiis. "But I was moved by their determination and drive to combine the knowledge passed on from generation to generation with scientific expertise to adapt their farming practices. Such adaptation efforts must be supported as they are not only crucial to Peruvian farmers, but a necessary effort for the world to follow."

"Small-scale farmers hold the key to increasing global food production in a sustainable way but our policies have left them to fend for themselves on the front-line of hunger, poverty and climate change, said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "We at Oxfam are working to reduce hunger through increased investments in small-scale farmers around the world and we are so proud to have Giada join our effort."

Efforts currently underway in Congress and an initiative recently announced by President Obama would provide critical resources for investing in agriculture and rural livelihoods.

"I have brought back many stories from the villages I have visited, you really can't help but be moved by such amazing people," said De Laurentiis. "Now more than ever, I am convinced that we must invest more–and more wisely–in local agriculture to help poor farmers lift themselves out of poverty."

De Laurentiis is an Emmy Award winning celebrity chef and regular contributor to the "Today Show" has hosted several successful series on Food Network, most notably "Everyday Italian." With much anticipation, she debuted her recent series for Food Network, "Giada at Home" in the Fall of 2008, and featured Oxfam's work in one of the series' episodes. Additionally, De Laurentiis is the best-selling author of four cookbooks and currently working on a fifth book with a release in Spring 2010. While on her month long book tour for "Giada's Kitchen" in October 2008, De Laurentiis included Oxfam inserts in each book sold, drawing attention to the growing problem of rising food costs and the hunger crisis worldwide.