Feeding the world and the myth about world hunger

Oct 20, 2016 · 4 min read

Is there not enough food to feed everyone?

There are various claims that blame world hunger on the lack of food supply, and other claims that state that by 2050, there will not be enough food to feed everyone. Believers of these claims say that as the population grows and as global warming continues to rise, we are left with the problem of feeding the world with little resources. There is increasing urgency to address the hunger issue, but it may not be as black and white as we think it is.

According to the World Food Programme, “there is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life.” The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) claims that there is more than 2,700 calories produced per person each day. This is more than enough to feed the predicted nine billion population in 2050. The fact is, we do have enough food to feed everyone in the world but that food is being aliquoted elsewhere.

Where is the food going?

According to Mark Bittman from the New York Times, a third of food that is produced goes to feed livestock, 5% is used for biofuels and as much as a third is wasted. The FAO claims that about 3,800 calories of food per person each day is generated with nearly 1,100 calories of food wasted. America alone wastes massive amounts of food, nearly $161 billion worth.

Why is so much food going to waste?

Food is very expensive to transport. Therefore, for growers, if you don’t have an immediate buyer for your products, the cheapest thing to do is to throw it away. The reason why buyers don’t buy certain food products is usually because it is not of high enough quality to sell in stores, even though it is perfectly fine to eat. Stores don’t sell food that doesn’t look attractive to the consumer. American consumers also carry a great amount of responsibility with almost 25% of groceries purchased ending up in landfill according to a study done by the NRDC. Americans have been known to practice low effort to reduce waste, but this alone cannot tell us why so many people around the world are dying from malnutrition and starvation.

Why is there so much hunger?

Hunger is a major problem across the world. The World Food Programme attributes the causes of hunger to be poverty, conflict, natural disasters, over-exploitation of the environment and poor agricultural infrastructure. People living in poverty often get stuck in a cycle of not being able to afford essential food groups, and when war is prominent, it can cause families to flee their homes which can leave them without a reliable source of sustenance. Drought is one of the major causes of hunger due to failed crops and is now even more heightened due to climate change. Because of the lack of education on sustainable environmental practices, the land in developing countries is often over-exploited and is no longer able to be used for agriculture. WFP says that investment in agriculture is the most effective way to reduce poverty and hunger. A critical thing to take note of here is that population size is not one of these factors.

How do we feed the world?

According to the Huffington Post, “The call to double food production by 2050 only applies if we continue to prioritize the growing population of livestock and automobiles over hungry people.” They say that we already grow enough food for 10 billion, yet we still have hungry people. National Geographic lays out five ways to ensure enough food for our future population: reduce the ecological footprint by agriculture, grow more on the land we already use for agriculture, use our resources more efficiently, shift our diets, and reduce our waste. Realistically the way to accomplish these goals are to stop deforestation and use more sustainable agriculture practices, eat less meat as consumers, and adapt food systems to reduce food loss.

The point is, we need to understand that we do not need to grow more food in order to support a greater population, we need to use what we already have more efficiently.

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