A World of Plenty

The college I attend held a Hunger Symposium last month. It created awareness of the problems of hunger in our communities. We live in a world that produces enough food for everybody and in a country that wastes food. In my opinion, hunger should not be a problem.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, hunger is defined as fewer gross calories needed to live a sedentary lifestyle. Based on this definition, there are around 795 million people in the world that are chronically undernourished. The number could be higher since a lot of poor people are hardworking. The definition of hunger does not include those who are hardworking and receive more calories than necessary for a sedentary lifestyle but not enough for their level of activity.

The world produces enough food for everybody. In recent years, world food production per capita has increased. Even after livestock have been fed and post-harvest losses have been taken into consideration, there are still 2,800 calories per person available. There is plenty of food in this world for everybody, but the poor do not always have access to it.

Many of the world’s poor live on a very tight budget, and an increase in food prices or an unexpected expense can cause them hardships. In Ghana and Pakistan, the poorest 20% spend 70% of their income on food. That leaves only 30% of their income for other purposes. An increase in food prices or a financial hardship could result in them needing to cut back on their food consumption to make ends meet. This goes to show that producing more food will not necessarily solve the problem of hunger. There is enough food for everybody, but it is not always accessible to them.

While there are people in the other countries suffering from a lack of food, the United States wastes food. It is estimated that around 70 billion pounds of food gets thrown away or just goes to waste. Farmers do not always harvest all their crops. Food gets wasted during processing, and supermarkets throw away products that are expired but still edible. A diner at a restaurant leaves, on average, 17% of his food uneaten. Households throw away between 14%-25% of the food and beverages that they purchase. It is interesting to note that we throw away 50% more food than what they did back in the 1970s.

There is no simple solution to this problem. Growing more food or taking the food we waste and giving it to those who are hungry will not provide a long-term solution to the problem. There will need to be policy shifts in agriculture investments and imports. In developing countries, imported food can be cheaper than locally-grown products. This discourages developing countries from investing in agriculture, and eventually farming is no longer a viable option. This makes developing countries vulnerable to spikes in world food prices and creates the food distribution problems we face today.

“Food Waste in America” – Feeding America
“World Hunger and the Global Economy: Strong Linkages, Weak Action” – Jennifer Clapp
“2016 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics” – World Hunger
“How the U.S. Manages to Waste $165 Billion in Food Each Year” – Brad Plumer for The Washington Post

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