In Haiti, Literally Eating Dirt to Survive.

As the cost of oil around the world continues to climb, the price of food has increased to the point where many Haitians (where most people make less than $2 a day) have begun eating cookies and pies made of dirt and mud.

Carrying buckets of dirt and water up ladders to the roof of the former prison for which the slum is named, they strain out rocks and clumps on a sheet, and stir in shortening and salt. Then they pat the mixture into mud cookies and leave them to dry under the scorching sun…

The finished cookies are carried in buckets to markets or sold on the streets.

A Haitian doctors say depending on the cookies for sustenance risks malnutrition.

“Trust me, if I see someone eating those cookies, I will discourage it,” said Dr. Gabriel Thimothee, executive director of Haiti’s health ministry.

Marie Noel, 40, sells the cookies in a market to provide for her seven children. Her family also eats them.

“I’m hoping one day I’ll have enough food to eat, so I can stop eating these,” she said. “I know it’s not good for me.”

Poor Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • I posted about this on my own page, and I also am Haitian (on my dad’s side). This is the type of thing that gets under my skin. It also shows that although some Americans may complain about how hard we have it, there are people in other countries that have it 100 times worse…

  • Brran: I feel you. But I don’t think the problems of the poor in the U.S. are illegitimate (or less legitimate) because they don’t have to eat dirt.

    Have you ever visited? My landlord is a photojournalist, and she had to cover Aristide’s ouster. She had PTSD when she returned. Her stories were not easy to listen to.

  • I actually have not visited because the last time my father went down there, he and my uncle contracted malaria, which he actually ended up dying from about a week or two after his return back to the states. I definitely want to go and see the country and meet more of my family, but I fear that I may end up having a trip similar to that of my father or your landlord.

  • quadmoniker

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard of anyone actually resorting to eating only dirt, and it’s dangerous if the dirt contains contaminants. As the AP piece notes, it’s also risky to depend solely on dirt.

    But it’s not the first time people have eaten dirt. In fact, human populations around the world have practiced geophagy at various times. Poor Southerners did so until pretty recently, baking clay and making something called mud soup. Anthropologists think it has something to do with the tricky business of being omnivore’s around the world, since dirt contains many minerals humans need.

  • GVG

    I really wish after the long day I had, that this was not the story I read right before trying to go to bed. Being Haitian in America is not at all fun when news conscious and you have to see the perception given of your country and the reality of what you know your country to truly be. There is so much beauty in such a small place, that no one, including the Haitian authorities, care to show. I am not going to sit here and act as if I know the pain or desperation of the people in this article from personal experience, that are forced to have to eat dirt to survive– to be honest our family in the broadest sense of the AP’s definition is probably whom they seem to define in the piece as the “tiny elite that controls the economy”. However, that is no different from most parts of the world including America, which has all its wealth in the hands in the few, while most starve below them. I realize this piece is supposed to be a shining spotlight on a growing issue in a small country that the global community should assist. However, I think it is missing the importance of the historical factors that created the reality, and how without shining a spotlight on those aspects as well, the problem could never be corrected, because those factors in one way or another still exist.

    Yes, there is a huge problem with the distribution of wealth in Haiti. However, there is an even larger problem with the lack of agricultural options, which would allow my fellow Haitian people to self sustain with a rejuvenated farming and export industries. This is due in large part to generations of raping of the land, by both France and America, of all its natural resources, which has left Haiti with unfertile soil to even attempt to farm. With the lack of the ability to produce our once major agricultural export such coffee beans, cotton for textiles, mangos (which is quickly dwindling), and the complete deforestation of the country (for those that don’t know – All the trees were cut down by France and America to produce charcoal, which is also the reason why there is such a bad flooding issue in Haiti. With no trees on the hillsides, there is nothing to stop and/or divert the rainwater. Which then in turn causes large streams of water to barrel down upon the valleys and causes disastrous flash flooding below), Haiti is now left with little or no options to agriculturally provide for themselves and are then forced, as the report states, into the world import market to attempt to pay for goods from other countries at exorbitant prices which were already unaffordable and are now skyrocketing even higher.

  • GVG

    brran1and G.D.

    I’m sorry to hear about both your father and your friend, but with any travel abroad there are rules to follow that can keep you out of harms way both physically and emotionally. There are many places that are safe to travel to in haiti that will give you an experience like no other – with tourist sites, high end hotels, gourmet cuisince, culture, beaches, and beautiful people. I know I sound like a clubmed rep, but it’s true, every time I go I’m amazed at how beuitiful it is. A group of friends are taking me to Haiti and DR later this month as a birthday gift and later this year my brother, cousin, and I are returning to spend some time getting to know the area where our father was born. Which by the way is an amazing town call Jacmel that is known for having some of the best community of Artist and their work in all of Haiti. The Hilton is currently in the process of building a massive hotel resort in haiti, there are numerous efforts currently going on to rejuvenate the countryside of it’s trees, the dollor isn’t worth much, but neither is ours in the global economy, which for you as a torist means you get to have the time of your life for cheap. It’s worth the trip as long as it’s done with a conscious mind of where you’re at and who you are. visiting your homeland it’s an experience like no other, that you will carry with you for the rest of your life. Below are some great tourist sites and hotels that are worthy of your patronage.

    When traveling abroad to a place like Haiti or anywhere else, you can always check in with the department of states website for travel tips and do and don’ts for the country.

    This is a site I enjoy for unbiased up to the date news on Haiti –

  • Elien Janssen

    Dear G.D.,

    Do you know by any chance who the photographer is of this fascinating picture?

    Kind regards,