What does food mean to you? It is an enjoyable experience, a livelihood that you or close friends or family depend on, or an everyday obstacle?
We often think of hunger as simply lacking food, defined as “the craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient”. However, if the problem were that simple, then why are there over 820 million people around the world today who are food insecure and malnourished? That is equal to 1 in 9 people who suffer from chronic hunger. This statistic becomes even more shocking when we consider that there is more than enough food on our planet to feed everyone. So what’s the deal and how can we take action?
RIGHT TO FOOD
Well, for starters, it’s important to understand the importance of food. The right to food is considered a fundamental human right. This right “requires the possibility either to feed oneself directly from productive land or other natural resources, or to purchase food, and includes the key elements of availability, accessibility, and adequacy.”
- Availability: a sufficient amount of food to meet needs
- Accessibility: physical access to food, including those physically vulnerable such as children, older persons, or persons with disabilities; economic access through affordability without compromising other basic needs (health care, education, etc.)
- Adequacy: satisfaction of dietary needs, safe for human consumption, free of adverse substances and culturally acceptable
In other words, it is not enough for food to exist, it needs to be available, accessible and adequate for everyone. This is where it becomes a lot more complicated because despite the amount of food we produce and consume, there are still 820 million people worldwide who are food insecure and malnourished and the effects are much larger than the feeling of hunger. “Extreme hunger and malnutrition remains a barrier to sustainable development and creates a trap from which people cannot easily escape. Hunger and malnutrition mean less productive individuals, who are more prone to disease and thus often unable to earn more and improve their livelihoods” (Zero Hunger). So, hunger and malnutrition can greatly restrict the ability for a person to overcome economic, environmental, and social challenges.
THE MAIN CAUSES OF HUNGER
There needs to be a large shift in our global food and agriculture system if we want to ensure #ZeroHunger. This includes addressing the existing 820 million people suffering today and the projected 2 billion additional people expected to be malnourished by 2050.
Poverty may be one of the first causes that come to mind when thinking about hunger and malnutrition. The 3 A’s (availability, accessibility, and adequacy) all seem to relate easily to poverty and the poverty cycle and this assumption is not wrong. But, the question that follows is why people are poor? Along with the reasons stated below, the cycle of poverty is being perpetuated by the rising cost of food. As food prices rise, the word’s poorest are hit the hardest and can sometimes spend up to 75% of their income on food, turning to consuming less or buying cheaper, less nutritious food.
Interrupting normal life, conflicts can largely contribute to food insecurity. Combined with its effects on livelihoods through economic instability, loss of land and human migration, conflicts contribute greatly the vicious circle of conflicts, forced migration, and food insecurity.
Ensuring food security for all means addressing major climate obstacles like degrading soils, accelerated glacial melt, changing weather patterns, and extreme weather events such as flooding, droughts, and storms. These can all affect the availability, accessibility, utilization, and stability of food for not only local farmers and their markets but the entire global system. Effects associated with climate change can result in dramatic changes in food production, altering livelihoods and economic stability.
October 16, 2018 is the 73rd World Food Day! It is a day organized by the FAO and is dedicated to raising awareness and taking action against global hunger. The day itself and the corresponding 150+ events worldwide aims to address the multiple factors of global hunger, food security, those affected and actions moving forward.
However, with the magnitude of this global crisis and the complexity of its multiple causes, you may be wondering how you can take action. Here are a few jumping off points:
- Check out the Global Goals website and explore Goal 2: Zero Hunger. Its main goal is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by the year 2030.
- Learn more about World Food Day campaign from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) through their Educator and Youth Communication Toolkit
- Read about Goal 2: Zero Hunger in Sustainable Foundations: A Guide for Teaching the Sustainable Development Goals and learn where it began, why the issue matters, who and what is affected, what is being done and additional educational resources.
After you’ve explored the issue a little more, consider
TAKING ACTION IN-PERSON
- Download the World Food Day poster or any Goal 2 material and share it with your classmates to spark their interest.
- Explore the World Food Day Student Activity Book (available in multiple languages).
- Avoid food waste! A quarter of the food that is lost or wasted each day would be enough to feed those who are hungry around the world.
- Don’t discriminate against the ‘ugly’ vegetables, chances are they all taste the same!
- Pay attention to what’s left on your plate and adjust next time with smaller servings.
- Turn your attention to local hunger and malnutrition problems by visiting or volunteering at a local food bank, food cooperative, or community garden.
- Gather with some classmates or colleagues to watch documentaries about the global food industry and how you can make an impact.
- Keep track of your ecological footprint by examining how much water you use, how much trash you produce and how often you’re in a car. All of these contribute to climate change and our actions can help reduce our impact on the planet.
TAKING ACTION ONLINE
- Make a #ZeroHunger commitment and share it on social media using #WFD2018 and #ZeroHunger.
- Explore the World Food Day campaign, Our Actions Are Our Future and learn how your actions matter.
- Do some research and learn how your community deals with hunger, malnutrition and poverty issues. Do you agree with what’s being done? Is there more that can take place?
- Take the FAO Quiz on The State of Food and Agriculture Migration, Agriculture and Rural Development and learn more about the issues discussed here!
- Watch the World Food Day 2018 YouTube playlist and learn more about food security and related issues around the world.
Food security – When all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle
Hunger – a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient; an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food
Malnourished – supplied with less than the minimum amount of the foods essential for sound health and grow