PICS Bags
In many developing countries, it is difficult to minimize the loss of crops post-harvest due to infestations and crop deterioration. Staple crops such as maize and wheat and particularly prone to insect infestations. Losses in these crops can prove detrimental to farmers because there is less produce to sell or keep as a food source for themselves and their families. This can lead to reduced profits for these smallholder farmers and increased levels of food insecurity. PICS bags, developed at Purdue University, attempt to tackle these problems and aim to preserve high-quality grain over a longer period of time while minimizing losses in quantity.

The PICS Project

The Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) project, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among other donors, aimed to create a low-cost technology allowing farmers to store grain without the need for pesticides. PICS bags became the solution.

PICS bags are triple-layer bags with two layers of polyethylene inside a woven sack, selling for between $2 and $4, depending on the region. These bags have the purpose of eliminating insect damage in grain stores and give farmers more selling flexibility by allowing for proper grain storage options in Africa during the off-season. While originally made to store cowpea grain, the bags’ uses extend to other types of grain such as maize, wheat, rice, peanuts and more.

The PICS project has multiple phases. PICS 1, originally standing for Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage, ran from 2007 to 2014 with the aim of bettering “cowpea storage in West and Central Africa.” At the end of this phase, PICS1 “increased total income in the region by $255 million” while reaching 1.7 million households.

PICS2, renamed Purdue Improved Crop Storage, ran from 2011 to 2014. This second phase expanded the use of PICS bags to other crops such as sorghum, rice, beans and more. PICS2 focused on research to determine the effectiveness of the PICS bags against mold growth and mycotoxins, effectiveness in maintaining seed viability and the cost-effectiveness of the bag.

PICS3 is the last phase of the project. This phase intended to “improve market access and food security among smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa” by building on the accomplishments of the previous phases.

Goals of the PICS Project

The PICS project centers around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The project specifically addresses SDG 1 and SDG 2. The PICS bag addresses SDG Goal 1 of “No Poverty” by alleviating poverty for farmers by decreasing losses after harvest. The PICS bag also addresses SDG Goal 2 of “Zero Hunger” by establishing food security and preventing nutritional issues by properly preserving and safeguarding food supplies.

The third phase of the PICS project, PICS3, aimed “to increase the use of hermetic storage” — using sealed airtight products to protect contents from insects and moisture — by 20% in grains. This helps reduce post-harvest losses of these crops and increases the food security and incomes of farmers and their families.

Additionally, the PICS3 project aims to train farmers on the “use of hermetic technologies in at least 14,000 villages” as well as build research capacity to maintain a reduction in crop loss after harvest. The PICS3 project also aims to “develop a sustainable supply chain to make PICS bags available to farmers” and increase the usage of “tools such as radio, cell phones, and [SMS]” to raise awareness on PICS bags as a solution and increase access to the bags.

The PICS bag also intends to improve selling flexibility for farmers. Because the PICS bags can store crops for more than a year after harvest, farmers can wait to sell at ideal profit margins without fear of losing their grain to insects. This way, farmers have more control and can choose to sell later to generate maximum profit depending on market conditions. Additionally, farmers can eat healthy, pesticide-free food themselves and may even have higher surpluses, improving food security.

Reach of the PICS bag

The PICS3 program originally focused on seven countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi. Now, more than 23 countries in all parts of Africa and even South Asia buy PICS bags. Additionally, PICS bags are in use in more than 40,000 villages in sub-Saharan Africa and more than 2 million farmers have received training on how to use the bags. Between 2014 to March 2020, the project sold more than 19 million PICS bags.

Drawbacks and Barriers

Since PICS bags came about fairly recently in 2008, there is still not much research on the environmental impact of the PICS bags. Additionally, in order for the PICS bags to work, farmers must follow instructions closely or the PICS bags will not work optimally. For example, if the grain is not clean and dry as the instructions require, there are chances of damage to the inner layer of the bag, which can reduce effectiveness, causing infestation and mold growth to persist. However, in order for farmers to properly adhere to these instructions, farmers must receive sufficient training. While this is a goal of the PICS project, there are barriers to implementation.

The PICS bag is capable of transforming the lives of those who live in countries with agricultural-based economies. This innovative, unassuming bag can improve rural farmers’ quality of life by improving food access and providing a steadier income.

– Shikha Surupa
Photo: Flickr

Food Systems in Afghanistan
In the wake of Afghanistan’s government collapse in August 2021, the nation’s humanitarian crisis has plunged to new depths and will continue on this path if Afghanistan does not receive the necessary aid. Of the total population, 41.7 million, about 23 million Afghans, are experiencing food insecurity due to the failure of food systems in Afghanistan. However, organizations are making efforts to combat the hunger crisis and strengthen food systems in the nation.

The State of Food Systems in Afghanistan

About 8.7 million Afghans currently endure “emergency levels of food insecurity,” and according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), without urgent action, Afghanistan could see a 97% universal poverty rate by mid-2022. The loss of more than 500,00 Afghan jobs since August 2021 and the steep incline of food prices leave Afghan families depleted of food with no income to purchase more. The Afghan people have no way of obtaining a sufficient supply of food nor can they harvest sufficient crops due to the harsh winter and severe drought.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

Since the start of 2021, the World Food Programme has assisted “15 million Afghans with food and nutrition support” while prioritizing the most vulnerable population segments such as young children and pregnant/breastfeeding women. The WFP’s “targeted supplementary feeding [program]” has addressed the nutritional needs of more than “500,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women” and more than 1 million malnourished children younger than 5. The WFP aims to “reach 23 million Afghans in 2022,” including 1 million children through its school feeding program.

The organization works with the Afghan government and commercial partners to strengthen the food systems in Afghanistan by supporting local small-scale farmers  as well as “building local milling and fortification capacity and strengthening value chains and food safety measures.” The WFP assists the Afghan government and humanitarian organizations “in beneficiary management, supply chain, information and communication technology and facilities and information management” to ensure a targeted response to citizens’ needs.

USAID Assists Afghanistan

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been taking measures to improve food systems in Afghanistan for the last two decades and has vastly strengthened Afghanistan’s agricultural sector. This is crucial work because about 80% of all Afghans depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. USAID’s efforts intend to scale up Afghanistan’s agricultural exports, expand “the reach of Afghan agricultural goods to bolster job creation” and distribute more agricultural goods throughout the country.

In 2010, USAID created a $100 million Agricultural Development Fund to supply credit to Afghan farmers and small-scale agricultural businesses to help them accumulate resources such as seeds, fertilizer and equipment. As of 2021, this fund has distributed “$132.7 million in loans to more than 43,600 Afghan farmers.” USAID has also assisted in creating more than 657,000 full-time agricultural-related employment opportunities, which has contributed to reducing poverty in the nation and strengthening food systems in Afghanistan.

Programs that are geared toward improving food systems in Afghanistan are essential in fighting the nation’s hunger crisis. Implementing these programs will increase food distribution throughout the country and strengthen Afghanistan’s agricultural sector.

– Isabella Elmasry
Photo: Max Pixel

Food Security in Nigeria
Nigeria is a West African country that stands as the most populous nation in Africa with more than 182 million citizens. The nation holds a high population growth rate as well as a high poverty rate. About 60% of Nigerians live in impoverished conditions, a consequence of several factors including conflict, drought and floods. The ongoing conflict and violence in Nigeria has not only led to more than 2 million internally displaced Nigerians but has also led to high food insecurity levels. The violence and conflict are “disrupting food supplies, impeding access to basic services and markets and limiting agricultural activities and livelihood opportunities.” With more than 8.7 million people facing food insecurity in the northern parts of Nigeria, establishing greater food security in Nigeria is more important than ever.

Reasons Behind Food Insecurity in Nigeria

The escalation of the conflict together with the crisis that COVID-19 caused and rising numbers of internally displaced persons make food insecurity in Nigeria a growing problem. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened both poverty and food insecurity in the nation. According to ReliefWeb, “embargoes on food items, the reluctance of manufacturing countries to export and the reduction of economic activities due to the pandemic has led to food price hike as high as 120% across markets nationwide.” Severe droughts and floods also impact agricultural output, exacerbating both food insecurity and economic insecurity, especially for rural people who depend on the agricultural sector for their income and sustenance.

How the World Food Programme (WFP) is Providing Assistance

Because food insecurity links to malnutrition, the WFP is providing “specialized nutritious food” to vulnerable children younger than 5 as well as pregnant and breastfeeding Nigerian women. With the support of UNICEF and Action Contre La Faim (ACF), the WFP is able to provide “an integrated package of essential health and nutrition services” to reduce and address severe malnutrition among vulnerable Nigerian people, especially in the most isolated and remote regions. In the most conflict and violence-ridden states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, the WFP aims to expand its food security efforts to support 1.9 million citizens by the close of 2022.

In November 2021, the WFP had supplied more than 12,105 metric tonnes of local food to more than 1 million people enduring food insecurity in the most conflict-ridden parts of Nigeria. Through $7.1 million worth of cash-based assistance in the form of “E-vouchers, prepaid cards, bank cards and mobile money,” the WFP was able to help more than 551,000 people buy “life-sustaining food and engage in livelihood activities” to secure an income.

To address nutritional deficiencies, the WFP supplied “nutrition support to 126,631 children aged 6-23 months and 87,396 pregnant and lactating women and girls,” among other efforts. According to the WFP, women formed 60% of the beneficiaries of the WFP’s aid efforts. In total, the WFP’s work helped more than 1.4 million people in November 2021.

The food insecurity crisis in Nigeria is ongoing due to limited food access as a consequence of the conflict, which is why the WFP seeks funding of $211 million between December 2021 and May 2022 to continue with the goals of the Country Strategic Plan (2019-2022).

The Road Ahead

The Nigerian government could establish greater food security in Nigeria by focusing on rural development, appropriate policies for food, political stability and the reduction of poverty. All these strategies must work in collaboration with international aid in order to see true success. With the support of the WFP, Nigeria was able to stabilize staggering levels of food insecurity in the nation. However, “4.4 million people are still entirely depending on food assistance” for their survival. Ongoing humanitarian assistance is necessary to provide emergency food relief and support and improve food security in Nigeria.

– Ander Moreno
Photo: Flickr

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

Bumblebee Retirement Home
The Bumblebee Retirement Home is a retirement home for bumblebees. Flying Flowers, a flower store in the United Kingdom, created a sanctuary to shed light on declining bee populations and provide bees with a resting area. Along with Flying Flowers’ efforts to raise awareness about the declining bee population, other organizations and bee activists are attempting to aid the bee population while simultaneously fighting poverty.

Bee Retirement for Efficient Pollinators

The Bumblebee Retirement Home looks like a dollhouse and features miniature walking canes, bloom-filled rooms and a sugar-water fountain. “Retired” bees can “watch” tiny televisions and rest on comfy beds after pollinating 5,000 plants a day.

In addition to bumblebees, Flying Flowers also creates “hotels” for solitary bees, the most efficient pollinators. Solitary bees do not live in colonies; some live in snail shells and travel to find food or nests. However, with a decline in wildflowers, it is often difficult for them to find habitats. In fact, compared to honeybees and bumblebees, these solitary bees pollinate 120 times more flora.

Bee retirement homes create a safe environment for bees to live and pollinate. Flying Flowers provides detailed information on bees, their importance and how to help save bee species. Honoring bees and their dedication to pollination is the goal of Flying Flowers and many bee advocating organizations.

The Decline in Bee Species

Although about 20,000 species of bees exist globally, detailed international data indicates that there have been no sightings of around 5,000 species — a full 25% of all species — since 1990.  This is significant because about 35% of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. In fact, scientists believe that bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators are responsible for one-third of the food people eat.

The Connection Between Bees and Poverty Elimination

Bees are vital to global food security, which makes their disappearance a significant issue for poverty elimination. Various circumstances including pesticides, habitat loss and disease cause the decline of pollinator species. Without pollinators, food sources will decline and bring massive consequences.

Bee deprivation is especially detrimental to developing countries because these nations “are more reliant on pollinators than [others], standing to lose [vital] income, livelihoods, nutrition and cultural traditions if pollinators decline.” Low-income areas use agriculture as their main income source. This puts people at risk of poverty when crops do not yield high-quality plants in large quantities. Not only does bee deprivation impact incomes but the lack of food crops robs millions of people of micronutrients like vitamin A and iron. For this reason, scientists say that crop loss results in “millions of years of healthy life lost.”

Bee Activists Working to Combat Poverty

Fortunately, there are organizations throughout the world promoting beekeeping, and in doing so, are fighting global poverty. For example, Bees for Development, founded in the United Kingdom, is a global charity that promotes beekeeping and biodiversity to combat poverty. It gives people in the most impoverished communities in the world a consistent income by training them into beekeepers who raise bees and sell honey. Bees for Development sends resource boxes that donors sponsor to these beekeepers. Bees for Development is only one of many organizations aiding those in poverty and bee populations.

How Individuals Can Help

Creating bumblebee retirement homes may not be realistic for many, but there are other ways to support bees, and thus, support people and the planet. People can buy or build a simple bee hotel for solitary bees using a hollow wooden tube. Helping bees can be as easy as putting a bowl of water in one’s yard, such as a bee bath. Individuals can also plant flowers with open petals because these make pollination easier for bees. Possibly the most important way to help bees is to stop the use of pesticides — the mass decline of bees partly stems from agricultural pesticide overuse. It is vital that the world acts now to protect pollinators before it is too late.

Whether it is a bumblebee retirement home or beekeeping, aiding this cause is crucial. Communities living in poverty and the environment depend on innovative ideas for improvement. Bees can be part of the solution for both poverty and a sustainable environment. To learn ways that individuals can help, visit the websites for Flying Flowers or Bees for Development.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: With Permission from Flying Flowers

Hunger-Fighting Initiatives in India
India ranks 101st out of 116 countries on the 2021 Global Hunger Index rankings, with a score of 27.5, which GHI considers “serious.” Currently, there are many hunger-fighting initiatives in India. The five government implemented hunger-fighting initiatives in India include the National Nutrition Mission (NNM), National Food Security Mission, Zero Hunger Programme, Eat Right India Movement and efforts toward food fortification.

National Nutrition Mission

India’s Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, launched the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) or the POSHAN Abhiyaan, on International Women’s Day 2018. NNM targets children, pregnant women and lactating mothers, aiming to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia and low birth weight babies. It uses Lives Saved Tool, also known as LiST, to gather results on increased interventions of maternal, newborn and child health, and nutrition.

National Food Security Mission

In 2007, the National Development Council launched the National Food Security Mission. By the end of the 11th Five Year Plan (2011 – 2012), production of rice had successfully increased to the projected “10 million tons, wheat to 8 million tons and pulses to 2 million tons.” The 12th Five Year Plan was even more successful, with a target of 25 million tons of food grain from 2017 to 2020.

The National Food Security Mission implemented eight strategies to accomplish its objectives. Those strategies are to:

  • Place focus on districts with low production and significant potential
  • Establish cropping system-centric inventions
  • Inherit “agro-climatic zone wise planning and cluster approach for crop productivity enhancement”
  • Increase focus on annual crop (pulses) production and grow them with diverse crops
  • “Promote and extend improved technologies i.e., seed, integrated nutrient management (INM), integrated pest management (IPM), input use efficiency and resource conservation technologies along with the capacity building of the farmers/extension functionaries”
  • “Closely monitor the flow of funds to ensure timely reach of interventions to the target beneficiaries”
  •  Combine multiple interventions and the goals of each district and its plans
  • “Implement agencies for assessing the impact of the interventions for a result-oriented approach”

Zero Hunger Programme

The Zero Hunger Programme in India began in 2017 to improve agriculture, health and nutrition. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the Indian Council of Medical Research, the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) created it. The program focuses on developing farm equipment, revamping the farming system, setting up genetic gardens for biofortified plants and beginning zero hunger training. In India, most farmers do not have an adequate amount of land to support their families plus the growing population. Without proper storage available, transportation and marketing places, most food goes to waste. The Zero Hunger Programme aims to:

  • Decrease child stunting for children 2 years and younger
  • Ensure access to food all year round
  • Create stable food systems
  • Increase small farmer productivity and income
  • Eliminate food waste

Eat Right India Movement

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India started the Eat Right India movement to ensure that the Indian population has access to food that is healthy and safe. The program stands on the foundation of regulatory capacity building, collaborative and empowerment approach.

Overall, the purpose of the Eat Right India Movement is to encourage communities to eat healthy, safe and sustainably. It aims to help all age groups since diet-related illnesses affect everyone if their eating habits are poor. With this common ground, the movement is banding with restaurants, agriculture, food producers, ministries and professional cooks to ensure change.

Food Fortification

Eating low-quality food can cause malnourishment and anemia. Both are present in children and women of the Indian community. In efforts to lower the extent of malnutrition and anemia, food fortification has been a common practice in India since the 1950s. Food fortification is a process of nutrient supplementation chemically, biologically or physically. Fortified food can include rice, wheat flour, edible oil, salt and milk.

Unfortunately, low-income women and children never consume 40%-60% of fortified food. This is due to some states’ failure to purchase fortified food, information disclosure in public supply chains and a shortage of distribution channels in rural areas.

All five hunger-fighting initiatives in India are working towards the goal of combating hunger. Though some have met their targets, the fight is still ongoing. Incorporating more nutrients in daily diets could save many from hunger and diseases. With that, the government recognizes the severities and has established initiatives to address the problem.

– Destiny Jackson
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

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

The Food is Never Waste CoalitionThe United Nations Environment Programme’s latest 2021 Food Waste Index Report suggests that the world is in “an epidemic of food wastage.” Currently, the world wastes about 17% of all food available for human consumption. Households contribute 61% to the total food waste while 26% comes from the foodservice industry and the retail industry contributes 13%. These wasted food resources could help to feed the 690 million undernourished global citizens.

A Closer Look at Food Waste

Food loss and waste persist for various reasons. Households may not utilize every food item they purchase and often throw out leftover food. Typically, the average household wastes roughly 74 kilograms of food per person annually. Food waste is responsible for an annual monetary loss of $1 trillion, impacting both farmers and families. The UNEP’s report finds that food waste occurs across all nations, not just low-income nations as is common belief. In fact, “at the farming stage alone,” roughly 1.2 billion tonnes of food is lost. Interestingly, middle and high-income nations account for “58% of global farm-stage food waste.” Considering these statistics, the world is searching for ways to decrease food waste and make food accessible to all.

The World’s Response

Many coalitions and campaigns are emerging to address the food waste crisis. In 2013, the UNEP began the Think Eat Save food waste awareness campaign. Now, UNEP is implementing “Regional Food Waste Working Groups in Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and West Asia.” The groups share ideas and findings concerning food waste within a peer-to-peer network in order to reduce food waste across nations.

USAID is also taking a stand against food waste by investing $60 million over the next five years to research and reduce food waste. In September 2021, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that “the United States joined the global coalition on food loss and waste” — the Food is Never Waste Coalition. The coalition aims “to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food losses by at least 25%.” The coalition works to fulfill the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to reduce consumer and retail food waste and loss.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition

The Food is Never Waste Coalition represents a significant step for global action against food waste. The international coalition works to reduce food loss and waste while emphasizing financial and economic sustainability. Members include G7 and G20 groups as well as more than 30 member states in addition to academic groups, NGOs, UN agencies and private sector groups.

Drawing from various sectors, including technology, energy and education, the coalition utilizes a public-private partnership (PPP). A PPP enables the coalition to look across food supply chains and intervene from multiple angles. By collaborating with governments and private businesses, the coalition invests in mutually beneficial sustainable food pathways. In Norway, a PPP strategy helped manufacturers reduce food waste by 15% in a period of just three years.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition will conduct research, share knowledge on food waste reduction methods and invest in food loss reduction. The coalition tracks progress with the UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report. Tracking progress will enable the coalition to maintain goals and establish necessary initiatives. Member states benefit from participating in the coalition. For instance, investing in food waste reduction creates business opportunities for local farmers and women in low-income countries.

The coalition also offers a platform for collaboration between countries by sharing knowledge on food waste research and strategies. Through grassroots efforts, private sector involvement and research, the Food is Never Waste Coalition seeks to improve food pathways. Additionally, the group will encourage food surplus donations among members states to feed those in need.

Alleviating Global Hunger by Reducing Food Waste

Ultimately, halving food waste and loss by 2030 will be a collaborative effort. The coalition embodies the international effort to improve food systems. Resources usually lost at the production or household levels could feed the world’s hungry. By improving global food pathways and encouraging surplus donations, the Food is Never Waste Coalition works to create sustainable and accessible systems with less food waste.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr