Hunger in TaiwanTaiwan is an independent island nation off the coast of mainland China. The democratic nation of Taiwan has struggled since gaining its independence in 1949 with a political divide over its sovereignty as its economy remains dependent on an already strained connection to China. With a population of over 23.7 million and only 1.5% living in poverty, Taiwan’s GNI per capita is estimated to be over $29,500. While hunger in Taiwan only affects a minuscule proportion of the population, the small country has taken impressive steps in alleviating global hunger, while implementing food waste and distribution solutions to assist its citizens facing hunger.

Taiwan’s Supply Chain

As an isolated island with the average citizen wealthy enough to make selective consumption choices, Taiwan’s food supply chain relies heavily on imported goods. In 2018, Taiwan imported $4 billion in agricultural goods. Taiwan’s food self-sufficiency rate is estimated to be only 30%. The Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, has committed to raising the nation’s food self-sufficiency rate to 40% during her term. Ing-wen and other government officials are working in conjunction with Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture to promote the consumption of domestically produced food and to bolster food stockpiles, which already contain 28 months’ worth of essential food items.

Food Waste

Taiwan produces an estimated 16.5 million tons of food waste. Taiwan implemented a fee on all other forms of waste and recyclables almost 20 years ago but has no fee for food waste. With Taiwan’s urban population booming and arable farmland declining in availability, the environmental, national security and economic costs of food waste have risen to the top of the political agenda. Taiwan plans to build several anaerobic biological treatment centers for food waste in the coming years and privatizing the food waste economy to create financial incentives for companies, yet these steps are only the start of a much needed long-term solution.

Domestic Hunger Relief

Data from Taiwan’s 2018 National Agricultural Congress showed that 1.8 million Taiwanese are underfed or lack food security. Despite a poverty rate of under 2%, hunger in Taiwan affects 7.8% of the population. In 2007, that percentage was only 3.6%. The rapid increase sparked government initiatives to reduce hunger in Taiwan. In 2019 alone, the government announced a nationally-funded food bank’s opening, expanded healthcare for agricultural workers, passed The Agricultural Wholesale Market Management Regulation and the Food Administration Act. The new resources and legislature aim to stabilize food prices, protect rural populations and improve data collection of the relationship between food waste and hunger in Taiwan.

Global Hunger Relief

In addition to taking steps to minimize hunger in Taiwan, its government has emerged as a strong contributor to providing global hunger aid and solutions. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides hunger relief through programs funded by it’s International Cooperation and Development Fund. Through this funding, Taiwan supports The Horticulture Project in the Marshall Islands, which promotes agricultural education development. Taiwan also worked with Action against Hunger in 2019 to improve refugee living conditions in parts of Asia and Africa, improving food accessibility for over 12,000 refugees. That same year, Taiwan launched rice donation programs to supply almost 10,000 tons of rice in Jordan, Mongolia, Namibia, Guatemala and South Africa.

Moving forward, as its government pledges to address hunger in Taiwan, perhaps even stronger efforts can be made by the Taiwanese to reduce global hunger. While Taiwan grapples with innovative approaches to reducing food waste and alleviating domestic hunger, it continues to set precedent for global hunger relief efforts.

Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Lithuania
Lithuania, located in the Baltic region of Europe, is known for its history of the Crusades, Soviet occupation and interesting dishes — like cold beetroot soup, among others. However, like all countries, Lithuania has to find hunger solutions. Lithuania has a Global Hunger Index score of less than five, but faces increased poverty rates. Additionally, the country’s level of poverty risk was the third highest in the E.U. Yet, the government of Lithuania and organizations like the Red Cross are combating hunger in innovative ways. Below are five facts about hunger in Lithuania.

5 Facts About Hunger in Lithuania

  1. Lithuania is one of 17 countries with a GHI score of less than five, signifying a low hunger level. The Global Hunger Index is a peer-reviewed yearly report intended to measure and record hunger at the global, regional and country levels. GHI scores evaluate progress and impediments in battling hunger. The GHI takes food supply, child mortality and child undernutrition into account.
  2. The depth of the hunger score is encouraging. The calculation, measured in kilocalories per person per day, is based on a malnourished person’s diet and the minimum amount of dietary energy needed to maintain body weight and engage in light activity. The higher the number, the greater the hunger in the country. The depth of hunger reported in Lithuania was 120 in 2008. Among countries in transition, Lithuania has one of the lower scores.
  3. In 2019, Lithuania elected Gitanas Nauseda as President. Before becoming president, Nauseda was an economist and a banker. Nauseda plans to develop Lithuania into a welfare state and hopes to address inequality in healthcare and education. His proposals provide a positive outlook for those in poverty or at risk of being impoverished.
  4. The poverty level in Lithuania has been a complicated measure over the years. It is difficult to differentiate between poverty and inequality and between urban and rural. Eurostat concluded that 22.9% of Lithuanians are at risk of poverty. This means that their disposable income is less than 60% of the national average, after taxes. To explain Eurostat’s measure, Romas Lazutka, an economics professor at Vilnius University, stated that, “There is a controversy in Lithuania. Some say such data is unacceptable, nonsense because the poverty figures did not fall even though people’s incomes grew, wages almost doubled and pensions rose.” Lazutka asserts that the calculation represents the relative poverty threshold, meaning a measure of social participation (not survival).
  5. The European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA) comprises 253 food banks in 21 countries, including Lithuania. The organization’s goal is to reduce food waste and fight hunger. In 2012, Maisto Banks, an organization under FEBA, provided more than 6.6 million meals. Another organization, the Lithuanian Red Cross, also seeks to help those facing poverty. When discussing the Red Cross’s campaign in 2003, Virginia Sereikaite, the Lithuanian Red Cross Youth Director, stated the need to “spread the word on poverty among the population for the first time. Children at schools learned humanitarian ethics with the Red Cross. This year many more of us came out onto the streets and the message was already familiar to people. It provided us with a better foundation for fundraising this year.” The funds went toward food and distribution to schools, social institutions, hospitals and soup kitchens.

Elevating the Quality of Life

Although hunger in Lithuania is a serious issue, the cooperation between the government, organizations and the people has improved people’s access to food. Lithuania’s new outlook on addressing poverty will ensure that more people’s needs are met. The Lithuanian president not only seeks to provide healthcare and education, but a more elevated quality of life.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Bread Shortage in SyriaMore than half of Syria’s population is labeled as food insecure: about 8 million people do not have access to a reliable food source. Syria is facing a major bread shortage, the first since the country’s civil war. During that time, citizens had to cut back their meals drastically due to the minimal harvest. Now, without reliable access to food, projections show that more than 500,000 children could become chronically malnourished. The shortage adds to the many other issues the country currently faces, including the civil war and the COVID-19 pandemic. This problem has a variety of implications. However, one stands out as essentially alarming: the bread shortage in Syria is deepening poverty.

The Importance of Wheat

In Syria, people consider wheat the staple ‘staff of life.’ As a sustainable agricultural product, farmers sow more than a quarter of land in Syria with wheat. The people depend on this crop as a steady food source, as it can serve poor communities in a harsh economic environment. Bread derives from wheat and is popular in the Syrian diet. If there is a disruption in government assistance to bread productivity, the entire Syrian population could be at risk of food shortages.

Bread Shortage Politics

The United States enforced the Caesar Act on Syria. This restricts humanitarian aid t0 hold President Bashar al-Assad’s government accountable for war crimes. Many Syrians dislike the Western sanctions, believing they have created overall hardships for the country: for example, the value of Syrian currency has dropped immensely due to the sanction and other contributing factors. President Assad was not able to financially compensate for the shortcomings in imports.

The Syrian President wanted to implement a rationing system in response. During the bread shortage, Syrians would be able to purchase government-rationed goods through authorized retailers. A smart card system facilitated the distribution, but only in the capital of Damascus and in Rif-Dimashq. As a result, the smart card system—and, thus, bread rations—was not accessible to all.

Western sanctions did not restrict food but implemented banking restrictions that froze assets. This action led to a trade difficulty for Syrian businesses. Grain traders were unable to conduct business as normal, and the government had to rely on businessmen to conduct bread transactions.

Living During a Bread Shortage

Overall price increases have made it difficult for Syrians to survive amidst these turbulent times: one Syrian’s monthly salary of 50,000 pounds ($21), for instance, is not enough to live on. Living on less than $1 per day makes it difficult for Syrians to eat, afford living expenses and obtain other necessities. Many citizens live in debt, and some even sell their furniture to pay their cost of living.

Food prices have also drastically increased, making it even more challenging for Syrians to eat a simple meal. Through the ration card, one family can get two kilograms of sugar, one kilogram of rice and 200 grams of tea. This amount of food should supposedly feed an entire family. However, the low quality of these products motivated many Syrians to wait in long lines for bread.

Improving the Bread Shortage

To alleviate poverty resulting from the bread shortage in Syria, the World Food Programme (WFP) provides assistance to more than 4.5 million food-insecure Syrians each month. WFP improves nutrition for malnourished families by providing emergency food during times of national hardship. Syrian mothers and children are at the greatest risk of malnutrition. WFP accordingly provides those in need with food vouchers to promote a healthy diet. Although the wheat shortage caused Syrians to cut their three meals a day to two, WFP continues to help alleviate this disparity by donating meals to families and lunches to children during school.

Wheat is a major component of the Syrian diet. The bread shortage in Syria has disrupted many lives by leaving individuals and families without sustainable amounts of food. The government introduced bread rations, yet families still go hungry with minute portions. Although Syria requires more progress, assistance from programs like WFP provides hope to those in need.

– Ann Ciancia
Photo: Flickr

Youth Hunger in the PhilippinesHunger in the Philippines is a rampant issue. Food insecurity affects 64.1% of total Filipino households. Further, an estimated 5.2 million Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger, hunger due to lack of food to eat, at least once in the past three months. One issue in particular is the increasing rate of youth hunger in the Philippines. Two in every 10 (19.1 %) Filipino children aged 0-59 months old are underweight. Additionally, three in every 10 (30.3%) of children the same age are stunted in growth. All of this is due to food insecurity. Due to these numbers, many organizations have stepped up to reduce youth hunger in the Philippines. Here are two organizations included in this fight against food insecurity in the Philippines.

Youth Hunger in the Philippines

One of the organizations making a tangible impact on youth hunger in the Philippines is Destiny Ministries International. One of its pastors, Ariel Tenorios, based in the City of Calamba, Laguna, has spearheaded a campaign to feed homeless youth on the streets. He also raises money to give aid packages to these malnourished children. His work has spread throughout the provinces to the General Santos City/Mindanao areas. Tenorios has helped children during the COVID-19 pandemic by provisioning meals to college-aged students and families struggling with food insecurity. To distribute these resources, his team goes from family to family in the poorer areas and gives out bags of food to those in need.

Another way in which Destiny Ministry International helps youth hunger in the Philippines is through social media. So far, the organization has been able to help hundreds of children and families struggling on the streets. One big issue during this time is mental health, with a lot of the youth on the streets struggling with anxiety and depression. Through its work, the organization has helped rehabilitate those in need. For example, it can help people work through suicidal thoughts by providing for their needs.

A Personal Touch

Norita Metcalf knows what is like to help out in these areas. Metcalf was born in the Philippines, living in the province of Cavite from birth to the age of 21. While she currently lives in the United States, she still works with various churches and organizations that focus on youth homelessness and food insecurity in the Philippines. Metcalf takes frequent trips back to the Philippines to help in both tangible and remote ways.

On her most recent trip to the Philippines, aiding Destiny Ministries International, she saw another level of poverty. She described cardboard houses, multiple stories high, that people made to give families some form of a roof above their heads, even if it is as thin as cardboard. This showed Metcalf a new level of poverty than what she personally experienced as a child in the Philippines. While there, she helped fundraise and pass out food to address this problem.

Destiny Ministries International

However, the work of Destiny Ministries International has helped make a tangible difference. Metcalf describes the ways in which people struggled not only with food insecurity but also mental health issues resulting from malnourishment and poverty. The provision of funds and food go a long way for these people. Many college-aged youths on the streets told Metcalf about the feeling of hopelessness associated with the lack of food. Even a small glimmer of hope resulted in the subsiding of suicidal thoughts and depression, thanks to the aid of Destiny Ministries International. Overall, its work has helped hundreds and reduced food insecurity for families struggling during the pandemic.

Children International

Another organization that has aided with youth hunger in the Philippines is Children International. This organization has sponsored over 43,000 kids and 14 community members for over 37 years. It helps tackle malnutrition through screening every child and identifying those who need intervention. Additionally, monitored supplemental feeding in community centers help these children regain their strength and correct their weight-height ratio. Children International also aids parents through nutrition classes that teach about healthy meals on limited budgets, so that children will not remain malnourished.

Through its community centers, such as the Kaligayahan Center (meaning “happiness” in Tagalog), the organization serves thousands of children in different areas. In this center alone, it provides medical and nutritional services to more than 5,100 children. The work that this organization does therefore helps to combat youth hunger in the Philippines. As a result, it helps stop the early deaths and malnutrition that Filipino youths often suffer through due to malnutrition.

Looking Forward

These two organizations demonstrate two different ways to fight impoverished conditions and youth hunger in the Philippines. The stark statistics on how many are affected show that stepping up to the challenge is a necessary step toward change. However, the fight is not done with just these two organizations. As demonstrated by Metcalf’s story, food insecurity is a serious issue that needs a coordinated response in the Philippines.

Kiana Powers
Photo: Flickr

HGSF Programs
At 310 million, nearly half the world’s schoolchildren in low- and middle-income countries eat a daily meal at school. The benefits of school feeding include increasing enrollment and course completion, as well as promoting a nutritious diet for children. Governments have since evolved this model into Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF), which integrates local smallholder farmers and community members. This added step secures local food systems, encourages economies and delivers fresh, diverse food to schoolchildren. In all, Home-Grown School Feeding is an intertwined, multifaceted approach to the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers

Smallholders produce roughly 80% of the food consumed in low- and middle-income countries. Yet, farmers in these areas still lack the educational opportunities and resources to bring them out of complete poverty. Two major obstacles they face include price volatility and unpredictable markets, both of which Home-Grown School Feeding programs help to alleviate.

HGSF programs provide a stable market demand. This aids farmers with the unpredictability of growing seasons, amounts of food needed and the type of product that is likely to sell. Through careful organization and planning, smallholder farmers can fully understand the needs of each school and thoroughly prepare beforehand. This means less wastage, reduced risk of investments and more opportunity for farmers to expand their capacities. When farmers receive a stable income following their initial investment into Home-Grown School Feeding programs, they can produce quality and more diversified products. In turn, this gives them access to additional markets.

Structured markets resulting from HGSF programs also encourage cooperative associations between smallholder farmers. This has the potential to reduce farmers’ reliance on local traders who may hold bargaining power over them. By creating an organization together, smallholder farmers are able to share knowledge, monitor food for quality and value and get access to credit. Social protection and promotion through established organizations is thus a major benefit of Home-Grown School Feeding.

Local Community Benefits

A strong HGSF program encompasses a whole community and food production process, from growing to preparing and eating food. Replacing school meals with the HGSF model can support a whole group of people along with the students.

Job creation is one particular benefit for local communities, from delivery drivers to cooks. However, there are also chances for rural businesses to provide nutritious products to schools. In addition, more people than farmers profit from the added access to markets, which increases income and prevents economic stress.

With careful planning and implementation, governments can also use HGSF programs to promote gender equality and decrease discrimination against vulnerable groups. This model can support different groups’ participation in farming and cooking and generally promote skill training and self-confidence. At first, compensation for their work might be food or services, but their work will evolve into paid positions.

Kenya’s Successful Use of HGSF Programs

Kenya’s Home-Grown School Feeding model reaches 1.5 million children every school day. The model benefits students, whose hot lunches provide the nutrients needed to focus in school. However, it also benefits the agricultural sector, who benefit from the predictable market demand.

To maintain a transparent, flexible model, Kenya uses a decentralized HGSF approach and incorporates multiple members of the local community. Once the government sends funds to schools, school meal committees carry out a public tender process and procure food from local farmers and traders. The committee, made up of parents, teachers and community members, assure the ministry of health checks the food for quality. Once it is cleared, the committee employs community cooks to prepare the food.

Kenya’s HGSF model has experienced some problems, particularly in arid and semi-arid rural regions. Among other obstacles, lack of infrastructure and water scarcity in rural communities mean that smallholder farmers don’t necessarily have the capacity to meet the demands of schools. This leads school committees to procure food from traders, who may not be local. In this way, rural smallholder farmers aren’t always receiving sufficient benefits from HGSF intended to alleviate poverty and meet the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Nonetheless, necessary adaptions and policy implementation to the HGSF model can be made by the government to include more smallholder farmers. Rural agriculture incentives and rural development policies would provide support for farmers, but these often cost a lot of time and money. Less costly strategies include linking smallholder farmers to schools and informing them of program requirements or preparing in-depth documents for schools, which outline procedures and implementations.

The Potential of HGSF

Home-Grown School Feeding programs have the potential to combine benefits in health, education, agriculture, economic development and social well-being. The model acts as a catch-all solution for preventing poverty. By taking the investment in school meals further by investing in HGSF programs, local economies thrive and food systems become sustainable. Ultimately, HGSF’s intertwined nature becomes a viable strategy to achieve the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Anastasia Clausen
Photo: Flickr

Twiga Foods
COVID-19 has caused many issues for poor families around the world. However, Kenyan food distributor Twiga Foods is helping families during COVID-19.

What is Twiga Foods?

Twiga Foods emerged in 2014 as a mobile-based food distribution company. What it does is source produce from local farmers and manufacturers. Suppliers can post their produce online so vendors can order it at an affordable price. Today, Twiga employs about 4,000 suppliers and about 35,000 vendors.

Fast Company has listed Twiga Foods as one of the most innovative companies. Twiga Foods was also listed as one of the World Economic Forum’s “Technology Pioneers.” The company has “reinvented Africa’s approach to retail, making it less time-consuming and more efficient.” The company “presents a convenient and reliable alternative to the current expensive farm and factory-to-market processes.”

The mission for Twiga Foods is simple: “to feed and supply Africa’s growing urban population with traceable, quality and affordable products whose quality, health and safety standards are at one with global conventions and best practice.”

What Twiga is Doing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The spread of COVID-19 created a lot of concern for Twiga Foods. Some of its clients include hotels and restaurants which have run minimally during the pandemic. However, Twiga was listed as an essential business, and the company was able to keep operating and employ thousands of people.

In June 2020, Twiga partnered up with Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) and Jumia to support families during the pandemic. The program these companies created offers a “convenient way for customers who wish to donate during the pandemic period.” Twiga Foods is providing discounted prices of fresh produce up to 50% as an incentive for people to donate to the cause.

How Companies like Twiga Foods Can Help the Market

The success of Twiga Foods matches Kenya’s growing economy and reduction of poverty. Kenya’s GDP went from $61.45 billion in 2014 to $95.5 billion in 2019. However, Kenya’s GDP in 2020 has gone down to about $80 billion.

Not only has the GDP risen over the past few years, but poverty rates in Kenya have gone down. From 2005 to 2006, 46.8% of Kenyans lived below the poverty line. From 2015 to 2016, the amount of Kenyans living under the poverty line dropped to 36.1%. This drop in the poverty rate was due to the increasing importance of non-agricultural income to supplement agricultural income for rural households.

Between 2013 and 2017, about 25% of the nation’s GDP came from agriculture. However, farmers across Kenya find it hard to make a living due to the insufficiency of the African agricultural market. Having companies like Twiga Foods support these farmers can help improve food safety, environmental and social practices.

When Twiga Foods connects rural farmers to informal retail vendors in the cities, it can enhance the agricultural market for both the suppliers and the consumers. Farmers can have guaranteed access to a fairly-priced, transparent and mobile marketplace. Vendors can get high-quality and fresh produce to sell to consumers at a lower price. Having food sold at a lower price is a way that Twiga foods is helping families afford the food they need to survive.

Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

quest food exchangeWhat do you think of when you hear the words “grocery store?” Perhaps you imagine a Trader Joe’s, or maybe an outdoor farmers market with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and other goods. Others may think of grocery carts, canned goods and, of course, the frozen section. However, people whose minds wander toward these latter images likely grew up in a financially stable home. This is not always the case for the rest of the world, as many people suffer from food insecurity and hunger. Below is information about an organization called Quest Food Exchange and how it aims to solve this issue.

Food Insecurity in Canada

In 2018, 8% of the global population lived on less than $2 per day. Individuals and families living below the poverty line do not have the luxury of a traditional grocery store, fresh fruits or fresh vegetables. Many struggle to feed themselves, let alone their families, as they focus time and energy on survival. While many governments have programs to help these people living in poverty, there is more to do. The issue of poverty and food insecurity in Canada illustrates this.

In 2017, 12.5% of Canadian homes were food insecure. This equates to 4.4 million people, of whom 1.2 million were children. Since 2007, the number of people living with food insecurity in Canada rose by roughly 1 million. This negatively impacts health and plays a large role in the healthcare system. Since its founding in 1992, Quest Food Exchange has aimed to help those living in poverty become self-sufficient by offering them affordable food. However, the organization’s mandate goes even further than combating food insecurity. By saving surplus supplies, Quest Food Exchange is environmentally conscious. It stops quality goods from sitting a landfill, which creates a larger greenhouse gas effect.

What Is Quest Food Exchange?

Quest Food Exchange, a nonprofit organization providing grocery stores to those challenged by issues of food security, is based out of different locations in Vancouver, Canada. The organization is making its best effort to help the hungry in a dignified fashion. To do this, Quest Food Exchange gathers surplus food and goods from suppliers that would otherwise be thrown away and redistributes them to government programs, hospitals, schools and those living in harsh conditions. Shoppers must be referred and then apply to shop at Quest Food Exchange. This policy helps to ensure that only those who need additional help and support can use the nonprofit’s services. The organization holds a transitory model to help individuals become self-sufficient and allow them to choose their own food.

An Evolution in Food Redistribution

Global food waste is detrimental from both an environmental and a financial standpoint. Experts at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization suggest that humans waste 1.3 billion tons of food globally each year. This constitutes a waste of time, money, energy and labor. At the time of its founding, Quest Food Exchange acted similarly to a food bank. However, in 1997, workers came to the conclusion that unwanted food could support social programs to help feed the hungry. This is how the modern day Quest Food Exchange operation functions.

The organization now has three mandates: “Reduce hunger with dignity, build community and foster sustainability.” It does these things by providing affordable food, which in turn allows individuals to focus their attention on mental health, job security and other burdens. If more grocery stores followed this mandate, greenhouse emissions would significantly decrease, the economy would strengthen and the percentage of those living in poverty would drop. Quest Food Exchange is a great model for how organizations can solve food insecurity through simple redistribution.

Hannah Kaufman
Photo: Flickr

Gleaning Can End World Hunger
World hunger is one of the largest obstacles facing this generation. More and more people every day are struggling to feed their children and themselves, in a world that generates a surplus of food. According to the Food Aid Foundation, one in nine people go to bed hungry and one in three people experience malnutrition. It has a goal to create a world without hunger by 2030. While progress is slowly happening, there is still so much that people can do, especially when one considers how much food goes to waste. Luckily, the technique of gleaning can end world hunger.

What is Gleaning?

Gleaning is the act of harvesting or collecting grain or other crops that are still in the fields after farmers have harvested. Gleaning first showed up many years ago in the Old Testament of the Bible. Hebrew farmers would leave part of the crops unharvested for individuals who had no other resources to come and gather what they could. Throughout history, governments in countries such as France and England conserved this process for those in need. It was common up until World War II when more private property laws and technology began to evolve.

The Reality of Food Waste

Since then, food waste has skyrocketed. About one-third of the food produced in the world goes to waste. That is equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of food. Of that, a large proportion of food waste comes from fruits and vegetables. Gleaning would greatly reduce this. People often discard a large number of fruits and vegetables due to appearance standards; in fact, grocery stores frequently throw food away if it is not aesthetically pleasing. However, if one-fourth of the food wasted globally was not discarded, it could feed 870 million people in need. Not only could gleaning end world hunger, but saving food from waste also may help save resources such as water, labor and the production of gas emissions.

How Can Gleaning End World Hunger?

In 1987, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Hunger raised awareness for gleaning organizations. In 1996, it signed the Good Samaritan Act, urging people to donate surplus food rather than letting it go to waste. Since then, gleaning organizations have popped up across the country and world, with over 20 gleaning nonprofits in California. These organizations save surplus food from farms, restaurants, markets, stores and even backyards. Food Forward, a company based in Southern California, is helping to fight this. It wants to end hunger and food waste by saving surplus produce and donating to people in need.

A study in Nigeria shows the popularity of gleaning amongst different populations. The study found that the majority of individuals gleaning in Delta State, Nigeria were either females, widows, had little education or were over 50 years of age. However, individual gleaners faced discrimination and had a hard time finding left-over crops that were still edible. Regardless, gleaning is a necessary survival tool for those living in harsh conditions.

Gleaning has evolved since biblical times but still retains the same urgency to help those in need and prevent waste. Today, field harvesting is not a common practice for a myriad of reasons. However, modern machinery and mechanical harvesting miss a lot of produce. In the U.S. alone, these techniques lose or waste 96 billion pounds of food. Organizations like FoodForward can go into fields and rescue thousands of pounds of nutritious food which they then feeds right back into the community.

Hannah Kaufman
Photo: Flickr

Seeds of Hunger in Iraq
Security conditions in Iraq have gradually improved since the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the end of 2017. However, significant challenges persist as the nation struggles with political instability, social unrest, economic volatility and low standards of living. With the poverty rate at a steady 23%, Iraqis are in need of humanitarian assistance to fight the next uprising – hunger. In 2016, data collection concluded that 53% of Iraqi residents and 66% of internally displaced people are vulnerable to food insecurity. Current social conditions are sowing the seeds for hunger in Iraq, but the potential exists for future improvement.

ISIL and Current Conditions

The nation is facing a multifaceted food security challenge, as the years it spent under ISIL’s military campaigns exacerbated issues such as limited water supply, damaged homes and disrupted food production. Water shortages and the lack of affordable agricultural inputs continue to negatively affect the performance of Iraq’s large farming sector. Additionally, families are reporting limited livelihood opportunities, reducing their purchasing power and restricting their access to the public distribution system – a social safety net program.

With the insurgent infiltration, Iraq lost the majority of its annual wheat and barley harvests, which had once combined to contribute to over one-third of the nation’s cereal production. Moreover, ISIL expropriated over 1 million tons of wheat in 2015 and left it to rot, worsening food insecurity in Iraq. The remaining farmers are unable to harvest their crops due to issues like lack of machinery or fuel, unexploded mines in their fields and inter-ethnic retribution. If farmers and herders experience displacement or are unable to venture to their fields, the future of agricultural production will remain bleak and have strong implications for long-term food security.

The Future of Food Insecurity

Experts expect that food security conditions will keep deteriorating due to the high volume of internally displaced persons (IDPs) straining hosting communities. As of 2019, almost 2 million people remain displaced in Iraq, and over 245,000 Syrian refugees are living in or have fled toward cities in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq. Furthermore, a renewed COVID-19 surge in the Middle East will further test the resilience of Iraq and neighboring countries, as the pandemic could lead 265 million people to suffer from “acute food insecurity, which requires urgent food, nutrition, and livelihoods assistance for survival.”

Therefore, the United Nations is calling on governments, non-government organizations and donors to address the “availability, access and affordability of safe and nutritious foods and protect the nutrition of … vulnerable families.” For instance, the World Food Programme (WFP) is helping Iraq’s most vulnerable people strengthen their capacities to absorb, adapt and transform in the face of shocks and long-term stressors. WFP has been operating in Iraq since 1968, providing emergency food assistance and aiding the government with social service reforms. With millions of displaced Iraqis and IDPs, the WFP is providing monthly food assistance to 1.5 million displaced people across all 18 districts through cash assistance and monthly family rations.

As the humanitarian crisis endures, millions of families living in protracted displacement situations are reaching a breaking point. These families are continuing to face constrained access to basic services and critical protection risks and are in desperate need of life-saving aid.

Cultivating Progress

However, the Iraqi government has proven ineffective in resolving hunger in Iraq as it struggles to reconcile current social and economic unrest. Proactive policy-making and international aid are essential to halting the impending vicious cycle that starts with hunger and feeds back into the protracted conflict. Rather than sowing the seeds for hunger in Iraq, governments and humanitarian organizations alike have the power to cultivate hope for thousands.

– Carlie Chiesa
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in FijiFiji is an upper-middle-income country located in the Pacific Islands. In Fiji, the agricultural sector has been steadily declining over the last several decades, resulting in hunger concerns. Here is everything you need to know about hunger in Fiji.

Background of Hunger in Fiji

Traditionally, countries struggling with hunger are thought to be plagued with food insecurity and starvation. This is not the case in Fiji, where food availability is adequate — especially in comparison with other Pacific Islands. Fijians even have above-average access to energy-dense foods. Rather than food security, concerns surrounding hunger in Fiji stem from the double burden of over-nutrition and under-nutrition, caused by obesity and deficiencies in micronutrients. Trade policies, poverty and climate change are further causes of hunger in Fiji.

Main Causes of Hunger in Fiji

  1. Trade Policy: Fiji’s poor nutrition largely stems from increased dependence on cheap imported food, resulting in a decreased intake of traditional Fijian food. This decline in demand has resulted in traditional food being grown for export, thus increasing domestic prices. Consequently, families above the poverty line spend 18% of their income on food, and families below the poverty line spend 29% of their income on food.
  2. Poverty: Although extreme poverty is uncommon in Fiji, according to the World Bank, 35.2% of Fijians live in poverty. Furthermore, the per capita purchasing power parity in Fiji is significantly below the global average. Thus, not only do Fijians generally struggle with poverty, but food is also disproportionately expensive.
  3. Climate Change: Fiji is extremely vulnerable to climate change, experiencing frequent storms, cyclones, floods and droughts — all of which can be detrimental to the agricultural sector. Additionally, 25,700 people in Fiji are annually pushed into poverty as a result of climate change, further exacerbating the problem of poverty leading to hunger.

Traditional Fijian Diet

Traditionally, Fijians consumed a diet of fish, seafood, root crops, fruit, wild plants and legumes. In recent years, this traditional diet has been abandoned. In 2014, 50% of the population ate rice daily, 43% ate roti daily and 15% ate instant noodles daily. These unhealthy choices became popular while fruit and vegetable consumption declined, with only 15% of adults getting the recommended five servings daily.

Health Consequences

The major health consequences that arise from hunger in Fiji stem from obesity. One-third of adult Fijians are obese, and the rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as type-2 diabetes is correspondingly high. Obesity increases the risk of NCDs, thus increasing the risk of mortality. Consequently:

In comparison to its Pacific Island neighbors, Fiji possesses great food security. However, Fiji’s problems with poverty, trade policy and climate change perpetuate hunger. For Fijians to be able to afford and consume healthy foods once again, Fiji will need to invest in climate action, limit trade tariffs and promote native crops.

Lily Jones
Photo: Flickr