Cooking is pretty simple for most people. You buy your groceries, do some prep work, then turn on the stove. Soon your rice and beans are cooked and you have a healthy, inexpensive meal.
For millions of people around the world, this series of events is way, way more difficult.
Cooking can be a day-long affair that involves young girls searching for wood, coal or dung and other materials during the day (missing school in the process) and culminates with a stove spewing toxic fumes as a person tends to the meal.
If you think that bacon grease smoke is too much to handle, imagine black smog enveloping a room, coughs wracking a body.
Fumes from shoddy cooking stoves account for more than 4.3 million deaths each year--more than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined--through diseases like child pneumonia, heart disease, and lung cancer.
It also accelerates deforestation, depletes and harms water sources, increases the chance of envrionmental disasters and has other consequences.
No matter how terrible all this is, many families have no choice but to use bad cooking methods and put in long hours because it's the only way they'll be able to eat.
Fortunately, this reality has motivated the US government to team up with the UN and the Global Alliance for Clean to bring clean cooking stoves and fuels to 100 million people in places like "China, Guatemala, Kenya, and India by 2020."
This was preceded by the Indian goverment promising to bring clean cooking stoves to 50 million people over the next three years.
Together the efforts underscore how precious and precarious food can be. In a world of abundance, food should be a source of nourishment and contentment, a way to be in harmony with the world. It shouldn't cause stress and drive people to early deaths.
When everyone will be able to cook a simple, healthy meal, then the world will be much closer to ending poverty.