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War in the world's breadbasket

Feeding Resistance and Refugees in Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has upended regional commodity food systems, leaving millions at risk of severe hunger both within and outside of Ukrainian borders. The ongoing war has not only affected Ukraine’s citizens and infrastructure, but its ability to produce wheat, corn, and sunflower oil. Ukraine is the world’s top exporter of sunflower oil and the second largest exporter of grains. Its nutrient-rich soils yield 10% of global wheat exports, 14% of corn exports, and about half of the world’s sunflower oil, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, and Turkey are among the countries dependent on Ukrainian wheat. Over half of the corn imports bound for the European Union comes from Ukraine. The EU also relies on Ukraine for about a fifth of its soft wheat and a quarter of its vegetable oil. 1

On the heels of the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, this major disruption in grain supplies hurts the world’s most food-insecure countries, such as Bangladesh, Sudan, and Yemen. The U.N. World Food Programme predicts that 2022 will be “a Year of catastrophic hunger.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged Ukrainian farmers to plant as much as humanly possible. Compounding the crisis is the collapse of supply chains for fertilizer and animal feed right on the cusp of planting season. Damaged or inaccessible roads, infrastructure, and Black Sea ports are impacting the ability to transport crops and goods. International food shortages and prolonged spikes in food prices are a near certainty.2

Recently, the NYU Department of Nutrition and Food Studies gathered a panel of scholars studying Eastern Europe to share real-time observations and reflections about local, regional, and global supply chains, food access, production, and sovereignty, as well as the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

  1. Agata Bachórz (Sociology, University of Gdańsk, Poland)

  2. Eszter Kovacs (Geography, University College London)

  3. Simone Piras (Agricultural and Food Economics, The James Hutton Institute, UK)

  4. Mihai Varga (Sociology, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)

  1. Diana Mincyte (Sociology, CUNY City Tech)

  2. Fabio Parasecoli (Nutrition and Food Studies, NYU).

We’re sharing a relevant clip in this post. The full discussion is available for viewing here until June 30, 2022, courtesy of NYU.

Another public discussion on the impacts of the war is just around the corner. In partnership with NYU Food Studies, The New School will host a roundtable this Thursday, April 7, 2022 at 4 pm EDT. You can register here.


MacDonald, Alistair. “War in Ukraine Is Already Taking Its Toll on Global Food Supplies.” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2022, sec. World.


Dorning, Mike et al. “Putin’s War Risks More Global Hunger, Destabilizing Poor Nations,”, March 24, 2022,

Hangtown Fry
Hangtown Fry
Culinary Historians of NorCal