urban agricultureWith approximately 1.5 million residents, the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have dense populations with locations often on the outskirts of the city. Disproportionately underserved, the communities in these informal settlements deal with issues such as improper waste disposal, gang violence and unemployment. Out of Brazil’s total population of 214 million people, about 23.5% of people experience moderate to severe food insecurity.  Feeding America defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life.” Run by gangs and riddled with violence, large areas of the favelas are often hard to reach and support, which leaves the local population with little choice but to devise their own strategies and solutions to address the issues in their communities. To improve living conditions in the favelas and wider Brazil, organizations are turning to urban agriculture to address food insecurity.

Urban Agriculture and Poverty

Urban agriculture involves the transferring of local food production processes to the urban landscape. Often community-centered, urban agriculture can take several forms, such as rooftop or community gardens. Urban farming provides a space where social bonds and collaborations may be formed within impoverished communities. Additionally, urban agriculture creates organic, affordable, accessible and nutritious food systems to improve food insecurity in the favelas. Not only does urban agriculture provide a reliable supply of food to people who need it most but urban agriculture can also create job opportunities for people in poverty.

Manguinhos Vegetable Garden (Horta de Manguinhos) Project

This urban farming project operating in the impoverished Manguinhos favela is “Latin America’s largest community farm.” In some areas of the Manguinhos favela, the unemployment rate exceeds 50%. According to Al Jazeera, the project is “helping at least 800 families survive” during COVID-19 while “employing more than 20 local workers at a time when Brazil grapples with a pandemic-battered economy.”

Created by Rio de Janeiro’s environment secretary, Hortas Cariocas is the “municipal-led social development initiative” that launched the Manguinhos Vegetable Garden in 2013 in an attempt to reduce poverty and improve food security in the favela. Members involved in the project receive training, equipment and weekly produce to secure the food needs of their families. The project also requires members to deliver some of the produce “to at-risk members.” The project then sells excess produce “commercially to Brazilian distributors.”

The Hortas Cariocas initiative has expanded to almost 50 vegetable gardens across Rio, according to Reuters in December 2021. All of Rio de Janeiro’s urban agriculture initiatives combined allow the city to yield “more than 80 tonnes of produce” to improve food security for more than 20,000 households.

Looking Ahead

Urban agricultural programs and initiatives in the favelas are a step toward providing marginalized communities with some form of self-sustenance and food security. In addition to this, urban farming also creates a potential source of income for communities as well as a green space for people to come together peacefully. As more urban agricultural initiatives form and expand, food insecurity in Brazil’s most impoverished areas reduces exponentially.

– Owen R. Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

School Lunches in Peru
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights the importance of school lunches in introducing children to nutrition and influencing their health outcomes over time. Although the emphasis on school meals has grown significantly in countries around the world over the last decade, Peru has struggled to make a drastic nutritional transition in comparison to its developed counterparts. However, the nation’s Qali Warma program aims to improve nutritional outcomes through school lunches in Peru.

Peru in Numbers

As of 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) recognizes 22% of Peru’s population as impoverished without access to proper nutrition. Furthermore, of children younger than 5, 13.1% suffer from chronic malnourishment. With a total population of 31 million individuals, these statistics illustrate the severity of inadequate nutrition in Peru.

However, over the years, Peru was able to reduce rates of chronic child malnutrition by 50%, a significant feat for the nation. While statistics on hunger and poverty show improvements over the past 10 years, it is important to recognize that rates of malnutrition differ across regions of Peru. In some rural areas, chronic child malnutrition reaches almost 34%. Furthermore, the rates of child stunting among Indigenous groups have remained the same since 2011. The lack of access to healthy and nutritious foods in Peru is partly responsible for these concerning rates.

Qali Warma Nation School Feeding Program

The lack of access to healthy and nutritious foods in Peru has led to a plethora of health concerns. Among the most pressing issues are anemia and obesity, which both serve as risk factors for other illnesses. The Peruvian government recognizes the concerning rates of anemia and child obesity in its country, leading to the implementation of the Qali Warma school feeding program.

Qali Warma is a social program that the Peruvian government implemented, aimed at increasing the health and nutrition of children through school lunches in Peru. The name Qali Warma originates from the Indigenous Quechua language and translates to “vigorous child.” The meaning behind the name is an ode to the mission of the group — encouraging “healthy eating habits” among the youth of Peru. Qali Warma’s main focus is children in early learning and primary education. However, to benefit Indigenous children in the Peruvian Amazon, the program extends its reach to high school students.

Since its implementation in 2012, the Ministry of Development & Social Inclusion of Peru (MIDIS) has overseen the program along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Initially developed as a three-year-long initiative, the success of the program means Qali Warma will continue until 2022. For the past decade, Qali Warma has provided healthy school lunches in Peru, improving eating habits among children while simultaneously engaging with local communities and providing people with food education.

A Two-pronged Strategy

The program consists of two services working in tandem with each other. The food service entails planning school meal menus and gathering the ingredients and supplies needed to put the meals together. Qali Warma uses specific calculations to ensure it meets the necessary nutritional and caloric requirements for child development. Moreover, the organization takes into account different cultural diets and consumer habits of each area it serves. The educational service component is primarily instructional. Qali Warma promotes “healthy eating habits and hygiene practices among the beneficiary children” while providing technical support and educational outreach to people implementing the food services.

Results and Reach

As Peru continues to invest in programs like Qali Warma, outcomes are proving successful in improving children’s health. By 2019, Qali Warma’s school lunches in Peru benefited more than 4 million children in total. Overall, the government notes an improvement in the overall nutritional state of these children since addressing nutrition with school lunches in Peru. Qali Warma reports that the impacts of school lunches extend far beyond nutrition as children are also more focused in classes and are eager to attend school. Nutrition specialists second this sentiment.

While Peruvian youth have struggled to maintain healthy levels of nutrition, addressing these issues in the places where children spend the most time, like schools, creates a lasting impact. Increasing the nutritional benefits of school lunches in Peru is a crucial first step in addressing malnutrition. However, consistent monitoring and modification are necessary as the program expands to reach more children nationwide.

– Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

Food Waste in China
By November 1, 2021, China reported more than 97,000 COVID-19 cases and 4,636 deaths. Graphic representations of this data seem to show an upward trend as COVID-19 numbers continue rising. Apart from the direct health impacts of COVID-19, the pandemic has also exacerbated existing social strife, such as nationwide hunger. Along with high rates of hunger, China also reports high rates of food waste, with a recent report from July 2021 stating that the nation discards about 350 million tonnes of its farm produce. Addressing the issue of food waste in China provides a solution to growing rates of hunger in the nation. China’s Clean Plate campaign aims to tackle these two issues simultaneously.

Food Waste Globally

With the global population possibly expanding by 2 billion people by 2025, totaling more than 9 billion global citizens, the United Nations stated that “food production must double by 2050 to meet the demand of the world’s growing population.” Yet, about “one-third of the food” the world produces “for human consumption” annually, equating to 1.3 billion tonnes, goes to waste. Fruits and vegetables account for the greatest portion of food waste. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.”

Food Waste in China

In China, specifically, food waste or loss amounts to “more than 35 million tonnes of food.” This amount of food can “feed 30 to 50 million people.”

In August 2020, President Xi Jinping pressed for the nationwide Clean Plate campaign in response to food waste and the economic and food-centric devastation that COVID-19 caused. At the time of Jinping’s address, the southern end of China had suffered immense flooding, ruining crops and leaving the rest of the nation without a sufficient supply of produce.

In essence, the campaign directs that diners must finish the food on their plates. Encouraging empty plates may lead to less food waste. In response to the Clean Plate campaign, “the Wuhan Catering Industry Association urged restaurants in the city to limit the number of dishes served to diners” to reduce instances of over-ordering, thereby reducing food waste. Culturally, there is a traditional understanding that a clean plate is indicative of “a bad host,” implying that there is “an insufficient amount of food” for diners.

Jinping’s initiative encourages people to be more conscious of food waste in order to address food insecurity in the nation. The Clean Plate initiative has proven to be successful, continuing in an entrepreneurial and consumerist sense. Prior to the Clean Plate initiative, taking leftovers home was unheard of, but has since become a commonality.

Looking Ahead

To avoid past crises of food insecurity, initiatives like Clean Plate encourage consumers to approach food consumption more consciously. Traditionally, in China, ordering more food than necessary is an indicator of power, wealth and status. However, the Clean Plate challenges these traditions in the name of reducing food waste to address hunger in China.

– Maia Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Poverty and Hunger
In September 2021, the White House introduced two of USAID’s new programs to reduce poverty and hunger. USAID, the U.S.’s international development agency, provides aid to countries to support various sectors such as agriculture, trade and human rights. The latest programs of USAID include the Gender Responsive Agricultural Systems Policy (GRASP) and its latest collaboration with the Eleanor Crook Foundation’s Global Nutrition Financing Alliance. GRASP will provide African female policymakers with a three-and-a-half-year virtual leadership development fellowship to empower women in food systems. USAID’s collaboration with the Eleanor Crook Foundation will mobilize $100 million over five years to reduce COVID-19’s impact on food insecurity and reduce malnutrition worldwide.

GRASP: African Women in Agriculture

According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women account for 43% of the world’s agricultural workforce. Although women make up nearly half of all global agricultural workers, they may not receive equitable opportunities in developing countries. In some regions of Africa, women make up 60% of domestic farm labor. Despite their participation, African women hold limited leadership roles in food systems.

Issues regarding legal ownership of land, fair compensation and access to financial resources hinder African women’s leadership in agriculture. According to Feed the Future, “women tend to own less land, have limited ability to hire labor and face impediments to accessing credit, agricultural extension services and other resources.”

GRASP intends to address gender inequality within African agriculture by empowering female policymakers and inciting change in food systems. With help from USAID, GRASP will provide 100 women with mentorships, networking opportunities and virtual leadership programs targeted to create food-secure communities. By empowering African women in leadership, GRASP strives to develop improved and equitable food systems beneficial to all.

USAID and the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance

USAID has also joined the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance in mobilizing $100 million to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition in low- and middle-income countries. The Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF) and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC0 initially established the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance. The partnership combines public and private sectors to address the pandemic’s effect on malnutrition.

The ECF projects a 50% rise in severe malnutrition due to COVID-19’s economic and existing food programs disruption. USAID’s partnership will help catalyze comprehensive approaches to decrease food insecurity. The alliance will prioritize health and food systems along with food-oriented small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The collaboration seeks to address the financing gap among SMEs, bolster women-led businesses and advance food safety. The alliance also seeks to end malnutrition by 2030.

USAID’s Promising Next Moves to Reduce Poverty and Hunger

USAID’s latest programs will benefit not only those in need but also the rest of the world. GRASP can open new markets by supporting African women in agriculture. The program will also expand leadership and business in African food systems. With accessible development opportunities, African women can create social and economic change to address global poverty and food insecurity.

Additionally, USAID’s alliance with the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance will help reestablish the world’s progress to reduce poverty and hunger. The alliance’s monetary aid will also function as a sustainable investment in global food systems. In helping the world’s poor and hungry through programs like GRASP and the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance, USAID helps the world get back on track.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

Ethical food consumption
Many food industries exploit workers and degrade the environment to produce cheap, low-quality food. Ethical food consumption reduces poverty by limiting support for food companies that do not prioritize human rights or environmental sustainability. With the proper knowledge and motivation, people can adopt a wide range of healthy, affordable, ethical and sustainable food practices.

7 Ethical Food Consumption Practices

  1. Try a plant-based diet. In an interview with The Borgen Project, David Julian McClements, a food scientist and professor of food science at the University of Massachusetts, said that plant-based diets can reduce pollution and biodiversity loss, as well as land and water use. Environmental disasters and degradation often hurt impoverished communities because local governments lack the funds and resources to bounce back. Plant-based diets can help impoverished communities by reducing environmental degradationwhich can be complex and costly to address. Plant-based diets can also combat food shortages, water shortages and water contamination. The meat and dairy industries deplete large amounts of water to hydrate animals and clean up waste, contaminating water supplies worldwide. Water contamination can be fatal to impoverished communities lacking proper health care and technology to ensure a clean water supply. Pursuing a plant-based diet reduces support for particular meat and dairy companies that degrade the environment at the cost of human health, especially in impoverished communities.
  2. Shop locally. Buying food from local businesses and farmers’ markets has several social and ecological benefits. When well-managed, small local farms preserve soil health, nearby water sources and plant biodiversity. Small farmers often plant a wide variety of crops compared to large monoculture farms that only grow one or a few crop varieties and ship their produce to grocery stores situated thousands of miles away. Shipping and driving food long distances reduce the freshness and taste of food and contribute to global warming. Local food can also be healthier than imported food because farm-to-table food loses fewer nutrients in the transportation process. Imported food may sit in warehouses, trucks or planes for long periods, during which the food can lose nutrients. Additionally, local, ethical food consumption reduces poverty by supporting small businesses and boosting local economies.
  3. Shop organically. Organic farming involves growing food without using synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic farms can reduce pollution, improve water and soil quality, increase biodiversity and limit human and environmental contact with toxic substances. Therefore, consumers help preserve their local environment and human health by purchasing organic food products. Organic farming can be especially beneficial to impoverished communities because of its environmental benefits. Organic farms improve public health and soil fertility, which benefits people, the environment and the economy. Due to socioeconomic and ecological benefits, one can view purchasing organic products as a form of ethical food consumption, which in turn, reduces poverty.
  4. Shop from businesses that pay workers ethical wages. When at the grocery store, taking a minute to glance at the label on a food product before buying it can make a significant difference in ethical food consumption over time. Identifying labels like Fair Trade can help support programs and businesses that pay workers fair wages and ensure safe work conditions. Supporting local food businesses and farms is another way to reduce support for large, corporate brands that exploit workers and degrade the environment. For example, buying products from local farmers’ markets supports small farms that prioritize ethical wages and sustainability more than large corporations. However, in places where farmers’ markets are unavailable, simply reading and researching the labels on food at the grocery store can help support fair wages and environmental sustainability.
  5. Grow a garden. Even if it is just a few plants in a small garden, growing one’s food can be a great alternative to large-scale, exploitative agriculture. Home-grown, ethical food consumption reduces poverty by minimizing support for corporations that do not pay workers fair wages. Sourcing food from a garden can also improve health and benefit the environment. Gardeners know precisely where their food came from, how they grew it and what they used to grow it, leaving no ethical or health-related issues up for question. Maintaining a large garden may be unrealistic for people who have limited free time, but even planting something small, like an avocado plant, can make a difference in the outcome of one’s food consumption over time.
  6. Consume less single-use packaging. Reducing one’s consumption of single-use food packaging benefits both people and the environment. People can reduce the single-use packaging they consume by utilizing reusable bags, containers, straws and more. Zero-waste stores are emerging as more interest circulates zero-waste living. While a zero-waste lifestyle may seem impractical to the average person, any steps in the direction of zero-waste living can make a difference. Reducing one’s use of solid, single-use products factors ethical food consumption because single-use packaging is abundant in the food industry. Ethical food consumption reduces poverty by lessening support for exploitative brands and initiatives, including the plastic industry.
  7. Avoid wasting food. Much like plastic waste, food waste can be detrimental to the environment, especially for impoverished communities. According to the World Wildlife Fund, people could reduce up to 8% of human-made greenhouse gas emissions if they stopped wasting food. Meal planning, purchasing food mindfully, utilizing one’s freezer and making good use of leftovers are all simple ways the average person can reduce the amount of food waste she produces.

By adopting ethical, sustainable food practices in daily life, consumers can make a significant impact in reducing global poverty and food insecurity while conserving the environment.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Secretary Vilsack
The secretary of agriculture in President Barack Obama’s administration, Thomas J. Vilsack, has returned in 2021 to serve in the same position under President Biden. Secretary Vilsack has received recognition for his civil service and efforts to combat global poverty, receiving recognition from the Congressional Hunger Center and the Global Child Nutrition Foundation. He is also “a former member of the board of directors for GenYOUth as well as Feeding America.” At the U.N.’s Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Secretary Vilsack declared that the U.S. would invest $10 billion to ensure global food security over the next five years. Here are five global food security initiatives that Vilsack supports.

5 Global Food Security Initiatives Secretary Vilsack Supports

  1. Feed the Future. Secretary Vilsack supports Feed the Future, the United States’ program to ensure global food security “by boosting inclusive agriculture-led economic growth, resilience and nutrition in countries with great need and opportunity for improvement.” Feed the Future began in 2010 following the 2007-2008 global food crisis. In 2016, Secretary Vilsack supported the Global Food Security Act, a bill ensuring that the efforts of Feed the Future could continue on even after Obama’s end of term. By backing the bill, he expressed his support for sustainable food systems for the world’s impoverished. The Feed the Future program significantly contributes to poverty reduction, reducing poverty by 37% over 10 years in countries like Bangladesh.
  2. McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program. The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program combats global poverty and hunger through the support of the USDA. As secretary of agriculture, Vilsack oversees this program, which supports education and child development in low-income countries, donates “U.S. agricultural commodities” and provides financial assistance for school feeding and community nutrition programs. Overall, the program aims to increase literacy and education to break the cycle of poverty. By overseeing the McGovern-Dole Program, Secretary Vilsack works to ensure that students in need, especially girls, receive the nutrition and support required to thrive in schools.
  3. Food for Peace. Secretary Vilsack also oversaw Food for Peace in the International Affairs Budget during the Obama administration. The Office for Food and Peace began with President Eisenhower’s Food for Peace Act in 1954. Food for Peace aids people in low-income countries and areas of conflict by providing international emergency services, organizing development activities and providing nutritional support. Its development activities shares tools and resources with people in food-insecure areas to end global hunger.
  4. Food is Never Waste Coalition. Secretary Vilsack announced in 2021 that the U.S. would be partnering with the Food is Never Waste Coalition. The coalition emerged from the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit. The coalition aims “to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food losses by at least 25%.” Reducing food waste involves member collaboration to create sustainable food pathways and invest in food loss reduction methods.
  5. School Meals Coalition. While attending the U.N. Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Secretary Vilsack remarked on collaborating with the School Meals Nutrition, Health and Education for Every Child coalition. The coalition strives to provide all children access to nutritious school meals by 2030. In 2021, 150 million students continue to go without school meals worldwide, which sometimes stands as their only meal of the day. The coalition seeks to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing nutrition within education. As a member state of the coalition, the United States will invest in feeding programs to incentivize education globally.

Reducing Global Poverty and Hunger

Secretary Vilsack maintains his efforts to reduce both poverty and hunger through his work in the USDA. By supporting and overseeing various food security initiatives and aid programs, Secretary Vilsack positively impacts the lives of those in need across the world.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

UN Food Systems Summit
The U.N. Food Systems Summit recently took place on September 23, 2021. The U.N. Food Systems Summit highlighted the key nexus between food sustainability and food insecurity. The Summit was a virtual conference, and it described the food-related challenges that many people around the world are currently facing. Statistics highlighted the magnitude of the nutritional issues.

The UN Food Summit: Igniting Action and Hope

The World Food Program’s (WFP) Executive Director, David Beasley, mentioned several concerning facts. For example, 3 billion people are unable to attain a balanced diet. Beyond that, 9 million people die from hunger each year. In 2020 alone, 25,000 people died per day due to starvation. However, following these morbid realities, the Summit revealed the goals of the U.N. and some solutions to the pre-established issues. The emphasis was on galvanizing people to care for one another. At its core, the Summit was a rallying call to action.

Main Objectives of the Summit

The main objective of the Summit was to raise awareness of the food system’s importance to the entirety of the sustainable development agenda. The urgency of addressing the issues plaguing global food systems has increased, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Summit also aimed to unite stakeholders around a common understanding of food systems as a foundation for action, to recognize the necessity of innovation addressing global food obstacles and catalyze action for the transformation of food systems in every corner of the globe.

António Guterres, the U.N. Secretary-General, issued a summary and statement of action for the Summit. One of the key points of the statement was how the pandemic has significantly worsened food insecurity, resulting in a 20% increase in the number of people facing hunger between 2019 and 2020. Furthermore, the Secretary-General established five action areas to help ensure the necessary changes to achieve all of the SDGs by 2030:

  1. Nourish All People
  2. Boost Nature-Based Solutions
  3. Advance Equitable Livelihoods, Decent Work and Empowered Communities
  4. Build Resistance to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses
  5. Accelerating the Means of Implementation

This statement of action was very robust. It included details about how the U.N. Resident Coordinators and U.N. Country Teams will work with national governments to develop new national pathways to improve food systems and ensure the accomplishment of the SDGs by 2030.

Global Leaders Reactions

During the Summit, leaders from a variety of countries spoke in an attempt to elicit empathy and initiative in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Agriculture Ministers and others were present at the Summit. The Summit’s goal was to “transform food systems to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Many of the leaders who spoke focused on the specific issues plaguing the food systems within their state and established courses of action and priorities for tackling those issues.

Spain stated that it will be focussing on boosting family farming, with President Pedro Sanchez saying that “family farming…contributes to the economic and socio-cultural fabric of rural areas.” He followed that statement by announcing that the Spanish government will support family farming by boosting the coalition for the Decade of Family Farming. Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), made a strong statement condemning humanity’s current state of production and consumption. He emphasized the urgency of investment into global food systems and called upon food manufacturers to change the composition of their products.

The Conversation Needs to Continue

The U.N. Food Systems Summit provides hope and reassurance that action will occur to address food insecurity and poverty worldwide. The Summit was available to watch for anyone with internet access, and those who registered were able to connect in chat sections. Globalizing the combat of food insecurity and reaching the individual level increases awareness and participation in the Summit, which is beneficial to the U.N. cause. International humanitarian organizations and NGOs should continue to host these community dialogues to raise awareness of the issues plaguing humanity and to establish roadmaps to alleviate these issues.

– Wais Wood
Photo: Flickr

Foodborne Illnesses in Africa
With approximately 41% of the African population experiencing poverty, access to food is a persistent struggle. Poor food quality often accompanies food scarcity and both can lead to foodborne illnesses. According to NPR, Africa has the highest per-capita rate of foodborne illnesses in the world. Here are five facts about foodborne illnesses in Africa.

5 Facts About Foodborne Illnesses in Africa

  1. Children are the most affected by foodborne illnesses. Children, especially under the age of five, are at an increased risk of contracting a foodborne illness.  Since their immune systems are not fully developed yet, it is also more difficult for children to fight off illnesses, particularly if they do not have access to high-quality health services.
  2. Lack of refrigeration is an underlying cause of foodborne illness. In rural villages in the Eastern Cape of Africa, many families do not have access to a refrigerator or electricity. As a result, they have to buy food daily to ensure that it does not perish. This becomes expensive, however, and is not sustainable for a low-income family. Therefore, many of these families resort to keeping food that would otherwise require refrigeration out in the open. Bacteria on food grows fastest in temperatures ranging from 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, doubling about every 20 minutes. Given that average temperatures in Africa fall within that range, Africans who do not have the means to buy a refrigerator are more prone to developing foodborne illnesses.
  3. The transportation of food in Africa is also a significant factor. A majority of Africans get their food through informal markets. The food that arrives at these markets typically originates from smallholder farms, but the safety standards during transportation are not always strictly enforced. Food contamination can happen during food production, delivery and consumption. In Africa, where food often travels long distances in hot climates without adequate packaging, contamination is more likely.
  4. Many African governments do not possess the resources to regulate food safety risks. Since Africa suffers from hunger and malnutrition, governments place an emphasis on delivering as much food as possible to those lacking it. This sometimes leads to a greater focus on quantity than quality. During hunger crises, although governments deliver food in a widespread manner, it can cause more harm if the food is contaminated. Without the resources necessary to regulate food safety, many African governments rely on international organizations that provide policy guidance and training.
  5. Africa’s food system is becoming more industrialized. While diets in Africa used to be rich in grains, many diets now primarily contain vegetables, meat and dairy products. These foods are more likely to require refrigeration, increasing the likelihood of contamination. Additionally, as more diverse diets are incorporated, there is the threat of new illnesses emerging. Underfunded clinics often lack the knowledge and resources to adequately diagnose foodborne illnesses and the emergence of new illnesses may worsen the diagnosis process.

Looking Ahead

Despite having a high rate of foodborne illnesses, progress is being made in Africa. The African Union is working to implement a continent-wide food safety authority. The initiative is set to emerge in the next year and will focus on increasing food safety protocols in markets and factories.

An organization called Harvest Plus uses a food-based approach to tackle hunger and agricultural needs by adding micronutrients to food. Through a process called biofortification, farmers add vitamins and minerals to everyday crops to sustainably bridge the gap between agriculture and nutrition. By targeting vulnerable populations around the world, the organization ensures food security in a nutritious and safe manner. Harvest Plus is confident that with consistent efforts, 1 billion people can have access to biofortified foods by 2030.

Sarah Frances
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

Advocating for Developing Countries
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs commits itself to raising awareness on “global issues of the day” and advocating for developing countries. Founded in 1922, the organization has raised awareness for global poverty through social media, podcasts, articles and rallies. The organization has not only raised money and awareness to the cause of global poverty, but it has also educated the world on how individuals can shape the future of the earth without bias. It shows how a person has the ability to provide aid to another who is starving, undereducated, ill or impoverished. The organization exhibits how to turn people’s lives around through supporting global initiatives and programs that aid the world’s poor.

Raising Awareness

Weekly podcasts focusing on various international issues allow listeners to gain knowledge of the problems facing developing nations. The podcasts allow listeners to find out about service events happening near them, giving them the ability to act and support what is going on to help developing nations.

Listeners and supporters can also submit questions to the council on global issues. Following the same podcast format, the council educates the public on international problems, solutions to those problems and how the listeners have the chance to support the cause as well. This weekly podcast has an open submission throughout the week and tackles a new topic during each session.

As well as podcasts, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs also uses social media resources to educate people. For the last three years, the council has released public surveys, asking questions regarding the importance of global affairs. The organization allows those surveyed to state his/her opinion on why he/she thinks it is important to aid the world’s poor. Additionally, the survey also asks questions and public opinion on global, political issues facing countries.

As well as using social media sources, the council holds events globally to raise awareness of global issues. These events tackle problems such as immigration, hunger in developing countries, the need for education in developing nations, and various other topics. These events allow everyday individuals to serve people globally, whether that be through the donation of time or money. Furthermore, these events give the opportunity to make a difference and help the problem.

How the Council Fights Hunger Internationally

In addition to advocating for developing countries by reaching out to the public, the Council focuses on how its own efforts can benefit the poor. For example, in 2009, the council lent its voice in support of Feed the Future, the Obama Administration’s USAID’s food security initiative. This initiative focuses on solving food scarcity for 23.4 million people living under the poverty line, globally. This program set in motion a task force within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that examined how the application of technology to agriculture could facilitate “food system transformations,” that would potentially usher in a new agriculturally urbanized world.

Through the efforts of this task force and many others, over 900 innovations have emerged to feed the hungry and impoverished. These innovations have lifted approximately 5.2 million families out of hunger. Meanwhile, its efforts also raised over $3 billion to stunt food scarcity between 2011 and 2018. Additionally, agricultural sales have generated $12 billion across the globe. This program has economically supported countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Benin, Kenya and many others.

Looking Forward

While the Chicago Council on Global Affairs works on advocating for developing countries by highlighting the needs of those facing starvation, extreme dehydration, political misconduct and other debilitating circumstances, it goes a step further. It also provides solutions to fix those problems, supplying resources for those who want to help but do not know how to do so, such as by providing donations to those in need and utilizing social media to raise awareness. Through these efforts, the Council shows that an individual does not need wealth or pomp but a willing heart and some time to make a difference in this world.

– Alexis LeBaron 
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