A Few Answers to Hunger


“Eight hundred and forty two million people are hungry even though we produce 2,800 calories per day for every man, woman and child,"

reads one of the first lines in the the SPI’s (Small Planet Institute’s) latest World Hunger Fact Sheet released earlier this month. While some of us live in the luxury (and problematic overload) of caloric intake, others struggle with malnutrition every day. It’s a serious problem that showed up in the news of late.

Summarizing and analyzing the SPI Fact Sheet, Danielle Nierenberg and Maia Reed of Food Tank write:

In 2000, the United Nations issued the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which call for halving the number of chronically hungry people in the developing world between 1990 and 2015. But with the deadline for meeting the MDGs closing in, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that measuring progress has proven to be difficult and potentially misleading.”

National Geographic recently explored the issue of hunger in America in a brilliant photo and prose essay that explores the new face of hunger in the U.S:

In the United States more than half of hungry households are white, and two-thirds of those with children have at least one working adult—typically in a full-time job.”

Tracie McMillan of Civil Eats delved deeper into American hunger this week through a well-researched journey through some shocking numbers on hunger and nutrition data. It includes facts such as:

Millions of people hungry in the U.S. in 1968: 10

Millions of people food insecure in the U.S. in 2012: 49

But, where lies a problem, a solution is bound to be in the works. Echoing the second, hopeful half of SPI’s World Hunger Fact Sheet, Nierenberg and Reed opine:

Through changing public policies, strengthening social movements, and supporting the Right to Food, the world could see a drastic reduction in hunger. By targeting food waste and untapped resources, more food will become available to those who need it, without the need to increase production.”

A new study out of the University of Minnesota posits that through simple resource saving, infrastructure changes, and waste reduction, we could feed 3 billion more people with the resources we currently have. Exciting right? Fiona Harvey of the Guardian gives us an example:

Cutting waste even by modest amounts would also feed millions, the authors found: between one-third and a half of the viable crops and food produced from them around the world are wasted, in the developing world usually because of a lack of infrastructure such as refrigerated transport, and in the rich world because of wasteful habits.

Speaking of being less wasteful, the Food Recovery Network (FRN) is a new initiative not only seeking to reduce food waste, but also distribute it properly. FRN founder Ben Simon and Cara Mayo explain at Food Tank this week:  

Food Recovery Network is working to leverage the momentum created by our student movement in order to ignite a shift in America’s food industry from food waste to food recovery with the launch of Food Recovery Certified. This is the first and only national program to certify food businesses that give their surplus food to hungry people.”

Also via Food Tank, an article explaining the new U.N. environment program Think.Eat.Save campaign’s tool designed to stop food loss and waste. Abigail Woughter describes the tool:

Think.Eat.Save Guidance Version 1.0 presents a four-part approach for governments, businesses, and other local organizations to implement food saving strategies at various stages of the supply chain. The Guidance focuses on identifying large scale—regional and country-wide—solutions to the problem of food waste at food retailers, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and schools.”

Finally, leaving the realm of logistics and capacity building, Nathanael Johnson of Grist explains how good old fashioned biology might help us with the global hunger problem. Palmer amaranth, also known as “pigweed,” is a nuisance as a result of the overuse of pesticides, but as Johnson discovered, the “weed” actually contains edible leaves and seeds and could be the food of the future:

They are highly nutritious! They are gluten-free! Surely with a little breeding and refinement we could beef up the size of those seeds, and harness that weedy vigor. It would be a sort of culinary ju-jitsu: Instead of fighting the weeds, overhaul our diets completely and nurture them. If you want superfood, start with a superweed.”

Though he admits that it is a bit far-fetched, it is this type of outside-of-the-corporate-driven-food-system-cereal-box thinking that will lead us to restructuring the way we produce food so that we eradicate hunger.

And that’s just the good news from this week! There are great people out there working to make our world and food system more equitable and sustainable. Let’s all do what we can to support it!

ILLUSTRATION: chart courtesy of National Geographic


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