This World Food Day, Oct. 16, we stand at a crossroads to address global food security. There is heightened awareness that the climate is changing, and food and agriculture must do the same to feed the world, while protecting the planet. And yet, the global goal for achieving a hunger free-world by 2030 can't be achieved if we don't work together to take action on climate change, instead of simply talking about it.
Today, one in nine people on our planet suffer from chronic hunger. That is 795 million people according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The global food system must feed seven billion people--and while enough food is grown, there are many challenges to ensuring enough food gets to everyone in need and ensuring food systems are sustainable.
Repeating statistics doesn't solve a problem, but it can help put the problem in perspective. And more than 100 million of these "statistics" are children. Undernourished children--one in six around the globe are underweight and one in four are stunted--have dimmed prospects for their futures and for the communities in which they live. Child malnutrition is the underlying cause of death for more than 3 million children each year.
Hunger, especially child hunger, has dire financial costs for entire nations, causing long-term economic loss, environmental degradation, and social and political uncertainty. It is estimated that the world's population will increase to 9.6 billion people by 2050. Most of this increase will come from developing countries, and it is projected the number of hungry may rise to two billion people. Meanwhile, there are 1.4 billion people living on less than US$1.90 a day, who don't have enough food to feed their families. Ironically, more than half of these people live in rural areas in developing nations, and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.
To feed a growing world, food companies, the agricultural sector and the development sector need to work together to produce enough nutritious food for more people, all while using less. This means producing a unit of food identical to what we have today, but using 60 percent fewer resources to do it. And, all while coping with climate change, volatile global markets and unpredictable political challenges. We must work together across sectors with concerted action to build resilient food systems, such as conserving natural resources, addressing farmer incomes, and ensuring sufficient supplies of food, as we will increasingly be challenged to feed a growing world.
By getting food to people in need, especially children, and strengthening the resilience of farmers, we can collectively take action to truly improve food security for an increasingly hungry global population. One important action is to attack food waste.
It's estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food were wasted last year--four times the amount needed to feed the 795 million people who suffer food insecurity. Wasted food not only denies sustaining nutrition for low-income people, it also represents as much as 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is a main contributor to deforestation and the depletion of global water sources. By working with farmers to provide training and resources, yields can be improved and post-harvest losses can be reduced. In addition, an effective way to divert healthy food from landfills, and avoid post-harvest losses, is through donations of surplus food to food banks. Last year alone, food banks reduced food waste by 3.8 billion pounds of food and turned that into more than 3 billion meals for families in need.
It requires collaboration across all sectors in the food system to improve farmer's yields and livelihoods, by promoting sustainable agricultural practices. To meet this challenge in a rapidly changing world, we need to improve agricultural productivity and efficiency on the one hand, and reduce waste by capturing otherwise healthy food and directing it to those in need, while improving consumption on the other. Taken together, these highly effective means will both protect the planet and help achieve a world with zero hunger.
No one company, government or organization is big enough to move markets and solve the problem of food security alone. We must work together on a finite planet to produce enough food for more people. Nothing can be more urgent to secure our future, and that of our children.
The late Dr. Norman Borlaug, a driving force behind the "green revolution" that secured the greatest gains against world hunger, once said, "almost certainly, the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind. Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world. Without food ... all other components of social justice are meaningless."
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