Taking on the Global Food Challenge

08/09/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated Nov 17, 2011

On Friday, leaders at the G8 summit in Italy take on the global food challenge - how to curb hunger in a world where there are a billion hungry people, more than ever before.

In reading some of the coverage leading up to the event, I saw a troubling lack of understanding about the role providing nutritious food to the hungry plays as an investment in our future. Food assistance is an investment: An investment in stability and world peace. Surely you remember the food riots of 2008 - they were not that long ago. And look at Pakistan now. The food streaming into millions of people who have fled their homes is pivotal in cooling a troubled region.

An investment in the next generation of global citizens. Food builds both physical capacity - strong bodies that resist disease--and mental capacity, starting from the youngest age. It seems that with every day we get another piece of information linking nutrition and brainpower--with some studies attributing up to 35 points of IQ to nutrition that is or is not received between the fetal stage and age two.

The inside skinny is that the communiqué (that's the official word for the official statement that the elite groups issues at the conclusion of its annual meeting) will be dominated by a commitment to long-term agricultural production - with an eye toward producing more food for the planet.

I understand the desire to move to something new. We've been providing food assistance to a hungry world for four decades now and there are still more hungry people than there should be.

Investment in agricultural production is critical and at WFP, we're 150% behind that approach. As the population grows, the world will need more food. But make no mistake: More is not enough.

The world could triple food production tomorrow and not put much of a dent in the number of children who go to bed hungry each night. That's because the vast majority of hunger in the world today isn't about supply, it's about access. Food is available but, often for economic reasons, it's out of reach.

So as leaders talk in Aquila, we thank them for investing in agriculture even as we plead with them not to forget those without food today.