photo by Emily Hildebrand, Flickr, Creative Commons
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College students love Nutella, and it could help them learn about food shortages.
photo by Emily Hildebrand, Flickr, Creative Commons

Can Nutella Make More People Care About the Food Supply?

By Trey Ross, The University of Arizona

Warm, gooey, and now–getting a lot more expensive. Nutella, the hazelnut and chocolate treat that’s become a staple of the college diet is the latest in a line of foods taking a beating from climate change. And maybe, just maybe, this problem has the potential to raise awareness about climate change among the younger demographic that relies on the snack food staple.

After all, it can be difficult to see the bigger picture when climate change isn’t directly affecting you. Where better to notice climate change than right on your plate?

As a college student, I have seen firsthand exactly how many different ways Nutella can be used in a semi-broke student’s life. Last year, I watched a boy use Nutella as makeshift glue after he put it on his pretzels. It’s in most of our dorm rooms, but now this breakfast treat might be out of our price range as a result of frost that destroyed hazelnut crops in Turkey last year.

In each average-sized Nutella jar, there are about 94 hazelnuts, and every year, over $2.4 billion of Nutella is sold. That’s a lot of hazelnuts, and now that the wholesale price of hazelnuts is increasing by more than 60 percent, the tasty treat may become so expensive that college students have a hard time shelling out the dough.

Earlier in 2014, students across my college campus were horrified at the prospect that they would no longer have to say, “I know guacamole is extra” at Chipotle. This isn’t because it magically became free, but because avocado crops were being heavily affected by global warming. The prices of avocados could increase so heavily that Chipotle warned in a securities filing that it might have to temporarily discontinue their guacamole option (although they later claimed that they were never considering that).

A true American horror story, no?

As frightening as pricey Nutella or a guac shortage may seem to a 20 year-old girl, it is minor compared to the daily struggle of the estimated 805 million chronically undernourished people in the world. Food insecurity is a global issue that demands solutions, and it’s hard for college students to understand the severity of this epidemic unless they see it firsthand.

But it’s not just college kids that need a little nudging. Last January, a Pew Research Center poll showed that climate change was ranked second to last among 20 issues on the public’s priority list for the government. Political instability in Pakistan and North Korea’s nuclear program were both ranked higher than global change. Don’t get me wrong, those are very important issues, but worldwide food shortages and destroyed crops are a common denominator for all countries and deserve more attention.

Our generation cannot afford to take climate change seriously only when something drastic and irreversible has occurred. We should be thinking now about the environmental consequences that result from our dangerous habits.

Clutch onto your jar for dear life, this ride is only just beginning.

Trey Ross is a sophomore majoring in journalism at The University of Arizona.

This story is from our Planet Forward Campus Voices program—an opportunity for students to celebrate and explore our complex relationship with what we eat and where our food comes from.