Information and stories on food.

Food Insecurity in New Zealand
New Zealand, an island country located in the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean, is home to a population of about 4.8 million people and comprises of nearly 600 islands. In 2019, New Zealand received the rank of one of the world’s richest countries, ranking fifth after Switzerland, Hong Kong, the United States and Australia. Despite its status as a rich country, New Zealand still has hidden issues with poverty, food insecurity and hunger.

Hunger and Poverty in New Zealand

Nearly one in five children in New Zealand are living in “relative poverty,” according to a report done by Stats NZ in June 2019. This number rises to one in four in the case of the Māori population (New Zealand’s indigenous people). Though it is a relatively wealthy country, many New Zealanders live with food insecurity. Defined as a lack of access to healthy and nutritious food, food insecurity has negative effects on families, children, health and even mental health.

New Zealand’s Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) estimated that the weekly cost to feed a person ranges from 29 to 74 NZD (depending on age and sex). For a family of four, that means food costs can average over $400 NZD a month on top of other costs like utilities, rent, clothing and education. According to CPAG, about 7% of New Zealanders experienced severe food insecurity in 2008/2009, and 3% — one-third of New Zealanders — experienced moderate food insecurity. The implications of this, even when dealing with moderate food insecurity, were large. CPAG reported on families struggling to feed their children, often opting for unhealthy food because it was cheapest, going through garbage to salvage food or forgoing food altogether to make sure their children did not go hungry.

COVID-19’s Impact

Food insecurity, fortunately, has reduced to about 10% of New Zealanders in 2019. But with the outbreak of COVID-19, the Auckland City Mission estimated that that number had rocketed to 20%. Between citizens losing jobs, panic-buying at grocery stores and other factors, the pandemic is threatening more widespread food insecurity in New Zealand. Emergency food assistance services have seen large spikes in demand. Additionally, many essential workers may be working full-time but are still not making enough to put food on the table.

Though it expects the winter months (June through August) to be harder on families, especially with the pandemic, Auckland City Mission was able to provide emergency food to over 23,000 families and individuals who were “in desperate need” over the last financial year. Additionally, when New Zealand released its 2020 budget in May 2020, Auckland City Mission released a statement noting that its social services support package meant the mission could help even more families who are facing food insecurity this winter.

The Future of Food Security

Food insecurity in New Zealand remains an important problem. In the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, these problems are becoming harder to ignore. Recently, CPAG released a paper about its ideas to solve food insecurity for New Zealand’s youth, including food programs in schools. It showed that with awareness and advocacy, people can begin to find solutions to these problems. In fact, the 2020 budget plans to expand an existing school lunch program to ensure that by the end of 2021, 200,000 students will receive a healthy lunch every day at school, up from the 8,000 currently receiving aid from the program. This sort of increase is a promising step to reducing the amount of food insecurity for New Zealand’s children.

Additionally, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Auckland City Mission has gone from supporting 450 families to over 1,200 and expect that number to stay high throughout the winter. Thanks to the 2020 New Zealand budget, Auckland City Mission will be able to continue helping those in need.

It is an unprecedented time for food insecurity in New Zealand, especially on top of existing challenges lower-income families have been facing. However, with help from the government and organizations like Auckland City Mission, the country is beginning to put more focus on providing food to those who need it most.

Sophie Grieser
Photo: Pixabay

Food Security and Innovation ProgramAs the world encounters one issue after another, food insecurity increases in countries with inadequate resources or less-than sufficient agriculture systems. With the pandemic at the helm and climate change an ongoing phenomenon, to survive these stressful times, innovative strategies are necessary. In this advanced society, new ways are necessary to process, distribute and reshape food production. Connections between food security and innovation seem far-fetched, but the United Arab Emirates/UAE’s food security and innovation program has found state-of-the-art techniques that relieve their people of this struggle.

Key Constraints Facing Food Security

The UAE aims to rank in the top 10 in the Global Food Security Index by 2021, and number one by 2051. In this arid region, however, traditional farming is next to impossible from limited water for irrigation and an unequal ratio between people and the UAE’s production. Due to these hardships, the country is reliant on its imports. For a food-dependent country, when disaster hits, food systems are unstable.

While there are several reasons for poor food production in the UAE, the scarcity of water contributes heavily. Most of the water in the country is recycle and reused, but this process can only occur for a given amount of time. Given that traditional agriculture utilizes a significant amount of water, UAE’s food security and innovation program is the answer. . To combat the issue of their unstable food system, the UAE has set up the FoodTech Challenge. This global competition seeks out innovative solutions for the country to address food production and distribution.

Vertical Farming: An Innovative Farming Technique

In response to the FoodTech Challenge, the company Smart Acres has provided a technique that utilizes vertical farming to support the UAE’s food security and innovation program. Vertical farming consists of vertically stacked plants, providing more produce per square area, resembling green walls as displayed in shopping centers. Smart Acres used South Korean vertical farming technology to decrease water usage and monitor temperature and nutrients. Regarding the UAE’s water issue, vertical farms save over 90% of the water in comparison to conventional farming methods. The constant flow of water across the plants provides the necessary nutrients for all the plants to grow. This high-tech design allows the company to produce clean crops without any chemicals and negligible interference.

Although the farm has not been implemented yet, this form of food production is expected to produce 12 cycles of crops annually; the farm will expand from Abu Dhabi to the rest of the country gradually. By using vertical farming, this technique expects to produce approximately 8,000 kilograms of lettuce and other leafy greens per cycle. In addition to the increased number of crops, the variety is also expected to increase and include items, such as strawberries, arugula, potatoes, etc.

Aquaculture Farming: Decreasing the Dependence of Imports

On average, the UAE consumes 220,000 tons of fish annually. However, imported food is 90% of the UAE’s diet, suggesting that advancements in the country’s aquaculture would be beneficial. To aid the seafood industry in the UAE, the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Center has taken the responsibility to use advanced technology to harvest marine organisms. The center utilizes photo-bioreactors to generate food for juvenile fish.

In addition to manufacturing primary live food for marine organisms, UAE’s food security and innovation program also include water recycling technologies, where water is cycled through fish tanks to reduce water consumption. To make aquaculture a more efficient and sustainable system in the country, the center is establishing a disease diagnostic laboratory, which will reduce the number of disease-related deaths associated with marine life.

While many countries face tumultuous times currently, UAE’s food security and innovation program seems to be a ticket out of poverty. Through the FoodTech Challenge, the country has found multiple viable options to strengthen its food system. With water scarcity, a large problem regarding food production, both vertical and aquaculture farming, has found a way to recycle the limited water and attend to other problems the UAE faces, such as dependence on imports from other countries. The challenge is open to the entire country, increasing the country’s opportunity in establishing a sustainable system. Through these systems, the UAE’s food security and innovation program is well on its way to stabilizing its food security and achieving its goal as a titleholder in the Global Food Security Index.

Aditi Prasad
Photo: Flickr

international food tradeMalnutrition, the state of nutrient over-consumption or under-consumption, plagues every nation in the world. Every day, one out of every nine individuals around the world goes hungry, while one out of every three is overweight. What causes this problem? The growth of the international food trade has stoked the flames of a malnutrition crisis that already disproportionately impacts impoverished countries. Nevertheless, governments and major firms in the international food trade can take simple steps to transform markets and reduce malnutrition all over the globe. Here are three ways that rethinking the international food trade can help impoverished regions deal with malnutrition.

Rethink Pricing Policies

It’s simple economics that when products drop in price, they become more widely purchased and distributed throughout the world. Unfortunately, many of the foods priced lowest in the international food trade fall into the category of “ultra-processed.” Consumption of these nutrient-poor foods is increasing due to their low price. In October 2019, sugar was priced at around $0.13 per pound, and its consumption was set to increase by 1.4%. Comparatively, meat saw a 1% decrease in production from 2018 to 2019 when its prices increased moderately.

With reduced national wealth, impoverished countries must often resort to purchasing these cheaper, unhealthy commodities. Driven by lower sugar prices, the consumption of sugar is expected to grow in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean. Less wealthy countries will therefore continue to purchase “ultra-processed” foods linked to heart disease and diabetes. In doing so, they will provide their citizens with potentially harmful food that will only worsen the malnutrition crisis.

Rethinking trade policies can solve this issue of imbalanced prices. Many processed foods made with sugars or fatty oils have low international safety standards, which allows them to be sold within markets for low prices, whereas healthier fruits and vegetables have high international safety standards, which causes their prices to rise. This makes healthier foods less affordable for impoverished regions.

By applying high safety standards to sugar- and oil-based foods, the international food trade could equalize prices of healthy and unhealthy products. Healthy foods would then be more accessible to malnourished communities and help to reduce the impacts of malnutrition. Additionally, individual countries can redesign national trade policies to subsidize the production of healthier foods like fruits and vegetables so as to make them more affordable for impoverished countries.

Rethink Market Orientations

By 2022, the global fast food market is expected to grow by $188.4 billion. From 2018 to 2019, the international trade of oil crops reached an all-time high, and experts also expect the international market of sugar products to expand through 2020. Comparatively, the international market for healthier products like coarse grains may soon undergo a “sharp anticipated drop” in consumption and production.

The international food trade is therefore oriented toward distributing foods around the globe that contribute to the growth of obesity-related diseases and malnutrition. Given that the international food trade continues to prioritize markets for “ultra-processed foods,” it becomes even more likely that poor individuals will have to purchase and consume these foods. In turn, this will lead to poor regions eating increased amounts of refined foods linked to chronic diseases while consuming fewer natural foods that contain essential nutrients.

Such a market orientation stands to further deprive already starving individuals of the few nutrients remaining in their diet, thus worsening the global malnutrition crisis. In this case, governments and major food producers can help reduce malnutrition in impoverished countries by reorienting international food markets toward the production and consumption of healthier commodities like fruits, grains, vegetables and meats. These food groups currently make up only 11% of global food production.

By overhauling what gets sold within the international food trade and by emphasizing the commercialization of healthier foods, governments can work together to provide nutritious food to every country. These foods would help eliminate, not contribute to, cases of debilitating malnutrition.

Rethink Food System Investment

According to the WHO, 42 million children worldwide under the age of five are overweight or obese, while 50 million children are too thin for their height. Both of these conditions are associated with massive health risks as well as massive risks to the health of global economies. By 2030, the economic cost of diabetes, a disease linked to obesity and highly processed foods, could increase to $2.5 billion a year.

Through micro-financing and “multisectorial investments in nutrition,” governments and international food trade firms can grant increased buying power to communities with particularly high malnutrition levels. This type of investment could provide impoverished communities with food or direct cash grants that could help them reduce malnutrition and stimulate economic growth. Domestic financing has the potential to kickstart the economies of impoverished regions, which gives them the opportunity to purchase healthful foods crucial to reducing malnutrition rates.

Many current food systems lack any outside investment. For this reason, countries around the world would need $9 billion per year over the next five years to meet nutritional goals. By rethinking investment into international food markets and systems, the global community can come together to stimulate the economies of impoverished countries. This would give them a dignified way to access markets, purchase healthy foods and reduce malnutrition in the communities most in need.

Overall, although the current mechanisms of the international food trade foster malnutrition, countries can easily redesign them in ways that will actively help to reduce malnutrition worldwide. By rethinking trade policies, market orientations and community investments, governments and major firms in the international food trade can begin to address malnutrition and help provide impoverished individuals with the wholesome food crucial to lifelong health and happiness.

– Nolan McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Entomophagy Reducing PovertyEntomophagy is the practice of eating insects. Throughout history and across geographical areas, adopting this diet has been a common and beneficial practice. Approximately 2 billion people across at least 99 countries regularly eat insects for protein, vitamins, minerals and fat content compared to meat or fish. There are about 1,900 edible insect species, from which humans eat eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. Insects of choice include bees, wasps, beetles, moths, caterpillars, crickets and grasshoppers. In recent years, researchers have explored this avenue and begun to consider the means by which entomophagy can reduce poverty.

Health Benefit

For years, insects have been viewed as a delicacy around the world. People eat boiled larvae with a nutty flavor and snack on crunchy beetles like popcorn. But bugs are also beneficial for their nutritional content: cooked grasshoppers, for example, can have up to three times the amount of protein and one-third the amount of fat compared to a hamburger. In low-income areas, insects are easily accessible from nature. People living in poverty could benefit significantly from this availability by either consuming them to prevent undernutrition or selling them at local markets to generate income.

Environmental Benefit

According to the UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research, insects are up to 20 times more efficient in converting food into edible tissue than cattle. Additionally, insects require far fewer resources and development to cultivate than other animals, which enables faster production (though this varies depending on the type of insect). Consuming insects offers a way to reduce crop-disrupting bugs without toxic or expensive insecticides. There is also little waste compared to cattle or other western proteins, which have to be processed and are only 40-50% edible. In contrast, people usually eat the entire insect.

Carbon emissions are lower in comparison to livestock. According to the Nutrition Bulletin from the Journal of the British Nutrition Foundation, the CO2 equivalent for beef is 2,058g/kg of mass gain, while insects have a CO2 equivalent of 68g/kg of mass gain. Many individual insect species leave an even smaller footprint.

Economic Benefit

The insect industry is diverse and can contribute to many markets. Silkworms are often used for fabrics and food, for instance, and weaver ants deter pests. The Chinese company HaoCheng Mealworm Inc. sells mealworms as flour, candy, condiments and instant noodles for human consumption. Also, this venture processes the worms into pet food for dogs, cats, birds and goldfish. Entomophagy provides economic contributions anywhere from street food businesses to commercialized companies.

Insect farming provides many employment opportunities for those living in rural areas of developing countries. Sericulturethe production and processing of silkwormsdemands 11 workdays per kilogram of raw silk, a higher employment rate than any other industry. The majority of insect farming and gathering is performed on a relatively small scale through family-owned businesses, often in rural areas where employment and income are desperately needed.

Trading these insect-produced goods is essential for developing countries as well. Zimbabwe deals with countries including South Africa, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia. Many countries in Africa, Asia and South America export insects for food. Even Europe and the United States have begun importing these products despite the relative lack of consumption in Western countries.

Thailand has a particularly prominent market for insect consumption, with imports estimated at $10/kilogram. For comparison, beef is $3.03/kilogram, and glutinous rice is $0.82/kilogram. Additionally, Thailand’s imports of these products total $1.14 million per year.

Regulations and Compliance of the Emerging Insect Market

National and international organizations play a crucial role in regulating the insect market. The Dutch Insect Farmers Association has been vital in lobbying to promote legislation and policies designed to improve quality standards, compliance and legal trading of these products.

While most of the Western paradigm does not consider insects to be a tasty snack or gourmet meal, continuing to research and develop this emerging market could prove essential in fully utilizing entomophagy to reduce poverty in rural areas.

– Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Wikipedia

Indigenous Australians
Many generally regard Australia as a wealthy and successful country, but in the past year, more than one in five Australians (about 22%) have faced food insecurity. Indigenous Australians experience food insecurity at a disproportionate rate. More than 26% of Indigenous households ran out of food at least once in 2019 and were unable to buy more due to high prices. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) found that percentage to be even higher at 43% in remote Indigenous communities.

Who Are the Indigenous Australians?

Indigenous Australians are the descendants of people who lived in Australia and the surrounding areas prior to European colonization in the late 18th century. They comprise approximately 3% of the total population of Australia and have classification under two groups of Indigenous communities: the Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islanders. One-third of all Indigenous Australians live in developed cities, while two-thirds live in rural areas across the country.

What Causes Food Insecurity for Indigenous Peoples?

Reports from locals of moldy produce and overpriced food have been surfacing in sparsely populated areas, prompting questions about the quality of food provided to the Indigenous communities of Australia. At the heart of the conversation is Outback Stores, a not-for-profit and federally funded grocery store chain. The organization emerged to supply Indigenous Australians with access to a wide array of healthy, high-quality food and protect against food insecurity, but locals say it is failing.

Outback Stores has 40 locations that serve rural and remote communities, 26 of which CEO Michael Borg called “unviable or barely viable.” Submissions to the local federal inquiry have claimed “disgusting” pricing of products, saying items such as a can of baby formula and a single pack of diapers are tagged at $50 each. Many available products are also either inedible or unwanted, deterring people from purchasing them even if they could afford to. Many community members have reported that week-old fruits and vegetables rotting in fridges are the only healthy produce options and shelves contain bags of sugar. One resident wrote that Spam, two-minute noodles and white bread were the only food staples available if you were “hungry enough to buy what is in [front] of you.”

How Does Food Insecurity Connect to Poverty?

Health and well-being are also a large concern with food insecurity. Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to live with a chronic illness or other disability compared to non-Indigenous Australians. A prolonged lack of access to healthy food causes subsequent poor nutrition and results in heightened illness and disease rates in Indigenous communities.

Rural Indigenous peoples live in more poverty compared to urban Australians, and they face limited access to work opportunities, education and social services. Poverty is the strongest factor in predicting food insecurity, as determined by the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR). The CAEPR found that a lack of money to keep up with growing food prices is the primary culprit of food insecurity, not a lack of food supply to the community.

What Organizations are Helping?

The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) emerged in 2019 to protect Indigenous people and support ethical policy development and service delivery in their communities. Representatives of the NIAA have reached out to over 200 store managers that serve Indigenous peoples in order to fully understand their needs and how to best allocate funding and resources. The NIAA’s goal is to identify problems that directly affect Indigenous Australians and make them a priority in state, territory and national government agendas.

In addition, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has the task of closely monitoring the prices of essential products to guard against inflation in Indigenous communities. In recent investigations into the complaints of overpricing, the ACCC found that product prices reflect the increased cost of supplying inventory to the stores, not stores attempting to increase profits. Since many Indigenous communities live within hundreds of miles inside the Australian outback, swift deliveries to the area are a challenge. As a result, the Australian government is striving to improve the supply chain costs of rural vendors serving Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Australians face food insecurity at a disproportionate rate compared to non-Indigenous Australians. Many Indigenous peoples are struggling to feed their families as rural supermarket prices continue to rise and healthy options are few and far between. The Australian government and departments like the NIAA are partnering with Indigenous communities to create a cheaper and healthier food supply, combat food insecurity and protect the health and well-being of their Indigenous people.

– Mya Longacre
Photo: Pixabay

Child Poverty in the United Kingdom
While employment in the United Kingdom has seen steady growth over the past decade, ongoing poverty continues to threaten many of its citizens’ health and well-being. Recent reports have documented a growing trend in child poverty in the United Kingdom, specifically among families where at least one parent was employed, with many struggling to make ends meet as living costs continue to rise.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an organization focused on poverty reduction in the U.K., the proportion of individuals in working U.K. families living in poverty has grown by nearly 17% in the past 20 years. This rising phenomenon has made the need for innovations in poverty eradication in the U.K. more critical than ever, as increasing numbers of people struggle with food and housing insecurity. In recent months, the global COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation further, as many have faced cuts to their regular hours, pay, or have even become unemployed altogether.

Children and In-Work Poverty

In-work poverty is a problem that leaves families and especially children extremely vulnerable. A 2018 report by Shelter, a London-based organization that offers support to the homeless, found that nearly 55% of homeless families in the U.K. fell into the “in work” category. As rising housing costs continue to surpass working-class earnings, families must choose between food and Shelter. A 2019 report by the U.K. Parliament recognized food insecurity as a pervasive problem that has “…fallen between the cracks in government plans,” with an estimated 19% of children under 15 facing food and nutrition deficits. In response to this crisis, numerous organizations are campaigning for new strategies and innovations for poverty eradication in the U.K., addressing economic stress on working families struggling to stay afloat.

One of the numerous organizations combatting poverty among families is the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). Founded in 1965, CPAG has been fighting poverty in the U.K. for more than 50 years. In 2018 and 2019 alone, the organization made numerous strides in improving conditions for low-income families. This includes providing professional advising for thousands of families applying for public assistance in London, as well as leading a campaign that made school uniforms more accessible for low-income schoolchildren in Scotland. As part of its most recent efforts, the organization is focusing on three immediate reforms to reduce poverty among children.

Reforms to Reduce Child Poverty

  1. Adjusting the U.K.’s Universal Credit system to better assist families. In 2013, the U.K. introduced its Universal Credit system, a blanket credit for low-income or unemployed individuals. However, CPAG argues that the loan, as it currently exists, fails to fully acknowledge the needs of families as opposed to individuals. The organization estimates that even a modest re-investment into the Universal Credit children’s benefit could potentially lift 700,000 children out of poverty in the next few years alone.
  2. Removing the U.K.’s “two-child” limit on tax credits for families. CPAG’s All Kids Count campaign advocates for the removal of the rule, which limits tax credits to only the first two children in a family. This restriction puts larger families in situations of greater stress, specifically in the case of single parents or households in which only one parent works. CPAG estimates that the removal of this policy could lift nearly 300,000 children out of poverty.
  3. Removing the “benefit cap” for vulnerable families. In the U.K., individuals and families may be eligible to receive government benefits based upon their employment status. As of 2020, the maximum amount is £23,000 per year, but many still encounter significant difficulty making ends meet. For example, new challenges posed by COVID-19 in recent months have caused many families to exceed their allotted £442.31 per week. Thus, it has become clear that the benefits policy for families requires adjustment to meet the needs of U.K. residents.

The Road Ahead

These campaigns represent only a few examples of the issues CPAG engages on behalf of low-income families. In its search for solutions and innovations in poverty eradication in the U.K., the organization has already secured an estimated £5 million for families who are no longer affected by the two-child restriction due to its legal efforts. While currently this victory only applies to adoptive parents and kinship carers (non-parent relatives), the organization plans to continue pursuing the case until the court completely lifts the restriction.

It is clear that much work remains to be done when it comes to eradicating child poverty in the United Kingdom, as thousands of families continue to struggle with the challenge of meeting their basic needs. However, CPAG and other groups are making great strides in changing the lives of many U.K. citizens.

Matthew Otey
Photo: Pixabay

food waste in macedoniaNorth Macedonia, a small developing country situated North of Greece, has experienced impressive progress in addressing hunger within the country. For instance, The poverty rate in North Macedonia was 27% in 2010. By 2017, that number reduced to 22%. Further, in 2019 Macedonia’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was 5.6, a relatively low level of hunger. Unfortunately, high levels of food waste in Macedonia have limited progress towards completely eradicating poverty and hunger in the region.

Are the Programs Working?

People continue to have severely limited access to nutritious food in the country despite the recent progress made in reducing poverty. The GHI found that 5-10% of the childhood population under the age of five experienced stunting in the form of impaired growth and development, a common indicator of undernourishment. In addition, one in five Macedonians continues to struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. The Macedonian government pointed to food waste as being a relevant contributor to the level of hunger in North Macedonia.

According to the World Bank, globally, people waste one-third of food. For developing countries, waste is largely due to poor infrastructure and storage. In North Macedonia, 40% of solid waste comes from food, accounting for a staggering 100,000 tons of waste. Agricultural surpluses create the majority of waste. This leads to decreased access to nutritious foods, lower incomes for actors in the value chain, and increased food prices for consumers. These all negatively impact those living in poverty, and further, may potentially lead to an increase in hunger in North Macedonia.

Is There a Solution to Food Waste?

Food waste and support for eradicating global hunger is on the rise. An apparent solution to the problem would be to redistribute food waste to those at risk of hunger. The Fund for Innovation and Technological Development has teamed up with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to address these redistribution efforts. The organization has provided support to the Let’s do it North Macedonia association to address sustainable solutions for food waste in Macedonia. People in need are receiving the redistribution of food surplus through the Everyone Fed program. This is happening in Skopje, Kumanovo and Prilep. The program has supported 10,000 people in need, including the provision of over 550,000 meals.

The Let’s do it North Macedonia association has successfully advocated for the passage of the Food Surplus Donation Law. The association is currently advocating for the creation of the first National Food Loss and Waste Prevention Strategy. These measures will help further mitigate food waste in Macedonia and contribute to the alleviation of hunger. In addition to redistributing food waste, the waste can be reduced through investments in infrastructure, as recommended by the NGO Ajde Makedonija. At the international level, the FAO is supporting smallholders and family farmers in Macedonia to overcome insufficient agricultural infrastructure which may further alleviate hunger. By eliminating food waste in Macedonia through innovative measures, such as the redistribution of surplus food, the Macedonian economy could save an upwards of $1 million a year. People could, in turn, repurpose these savings to further address poverty and hunger in Macedonia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in latin american children
Families residing in Latin America are currently experiencing a problem with nutrition, specifically with children being drastically underweight or overweight. This issue stems from inadequate health education, lack of access to healthy foods, and in some poorer communities, no access to any food at all. Reports in 2018 determined that 20% of children under the age of 5 were not growing at a normal pace due to some form of malnourishment. As a result, these children faced stunted growth and/or obesity. Organizations are tackling this issue by addressing poverty as the root cause of malnutrition in Latin American children.

How Poverty Leads to Malnutrition

In 2017, 184 million Latin Americans were living in poverty while 62 million were experiencing extreme poverty, creating an increased risk for child malnourishment. Low-income households often cannot purchase food, afford healthy foods or are food insecure, which perpetuates unhealthy development. This means children in poor homes are unable to consume the required number of food groups to support their growth. The poorest Latin American countries have it the worst. In 2019, one in two Guatemalan children under the age of 5 had stunted growth.

Children in marginalized households also face obesity. Obesity can lead to long-term health risks such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and mental health complications in adulthood. In 2017, 20% of children under the age of 20 were either obese or overweight in Latin America. A major reason for the continent’s growing obesity rate is the marketing of inappropriate diets. The U.N. highlighted a common marketing trend in Latin American countries: the cheaper choice receives heavy promotion, therefore outselling the healthier choice. This creates a higher demand for processed foods. Processed foods are more readily available in grocery stores than nutritious foods, perpetuating unhealthy habits among children in poverty.

Who is Helping?

There are many organizations that are working to end malnutrition in Latin American children. The nonprofit Save the Children currently has multiple programs in action that specifically target child malnourishment in Latin America by uplifting inclusive markets and strengthening household incomes. So far this nonprofit has provided over 350,000 Haitian children with vital nourishment. Kids Alive International also reaches out to vulnerable children by providing nutritious meals in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti and Peru.

UNICEF calculated in 2019 that malnutrition affected 5.1 million children under the age of 5, with children from the poorest households being four times more likely to experience malnourishment. UNICEF is working toward making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality for Latin American children. It hopes to end poverty and the effects of malnutrition by 2030.

Malnutrition in Latin American children continues to be a health crisis with poverty being a primary source. Every child should have the right to healthy food and a healthy lifestyle. International aid helps make those rights a reality.

Radley Tan
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in the NetherlandsAs one of the most substantial influencers in agricultural viability, as well as one of the foremost exporters of agricultural products throughout the globe, the Netherlands is not a country that the world would easily associate with hunger. Even with a lower rate of poverty and malnourishment than many other countries, the Netherlands must overcome the remaining barriers for those lingering in destitution. Fortunately, the country thinks big.

Poverty Within The Country

Since 2015, poverty has decreased in the Netherlands, while the country has experienced a growth period in its economy. Yet, those who still remain in poverty find themselves at a decrease in the ability to meet their basic needs over these recent years of prosperity. As of 2019, there were 169 food banks providing for the poor across the country. The ongoing issue is the access and awareness of this kind of assistance for families who find themselves in need of it most. Solving hunger in the Netherlands is only a portion of the country’s goals.

Eliminating Hunger On A Global Scale

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands has dedicated itself to resolving hunger following its driven Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The country’s aims are to improve food intake, efficiency and international trade, as well as enhance resilience to the imbalance in the environment and economy and provide better care for renewable resources.

Planning For Change

Eleanor Roosevelt famously voiced, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” The Netherlands has chosen to put its energy into planning. The country’s SDGs have inspired certain procedures that are already seeing success in Burundi. The Dutch embassy has supported a project empowering almost 40,000 farmers with a plan of action for the present and a vision of how their investments will pay off in the future. The project Supporting Agricultural Productivity in Burundi (PAPAB) uses this Integrated Farm Planning (PIP) method to help farmers understand the fulfillment in their work with the hopes of engaging the community in improved practices. These farmers have significant increases in earnings, production and security with each plan, as well as major reductions in environmental impacts.

How 8,000 Students Will Feed The Hungry

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) located in Wageningen, Netherlands comprises food scientists capable of eradicating hunger in the Netherlands as well as the rest of the world. Professor Louise O. Fresco, the university president, is motivated by a unique history that encourages her to end global hunger. Fresco was born amongst the aftermath of the Dutch Hunger Winter.

This famine took place in the 1940s as Nazi troops obstructed the food supply to the Netherlands. Studies have proven that those born around the time of this famine are at a higher risk of adverse health and psychological conditions due to the stressful environment at the time. However, Fresco sees an enabling connection between her birth and her current work which has inspired her to lead an institution where people share her passions.

Many students at the university agree that the real barricade in solving world hunger is the overproduction of food that many deem necessary in Europe, yet a large percentage of that supply becomes wasted and its production ultimately hurts the environment. The real goals are to solve these problems with minimal impact on the environment in order to achieve sustainability and reach those who are malnourished.

Students are developing innovations to meet these overall necessities. The vertical farming method, for example, allows for the growth of additional food while avoiding the use of additional land. Another project that students at the university are working on is a method called forest farming revealing the eco-friendly benefits of small-scale farming over large-scale farming.

As the country leads with innovative and inspiring techniques, approaching hunger in the Netherlands has lead to fantastic possibilities for the rest of the world.

Amy Schlagel
Photo: Pixabay

poverty and obesity
The fact that both poverty and obesity simultaneously rose amid the COVID-19 pandemic, possibly tipping 130 million people into chronic malnutrition by the end of 2020, may initially come across as surprising. Yet, researchers have long documented the paradox of how impoverished individuals experiencing food insecurity are more likely to suffer from obesity than the wealthy. Poverty and obesity often go hand in hand as signs of food unavailability and a lack of healthy eating, respectively, but these conditions of malnutrition also carry more subtle risk factors like unemployment, lower education levels and limited social networks.

The Problem: Food Access, Not Just Food Availability

Food insecurity manifests itself in many ways beyond undernourishment from an insufficient quantity of food — the prominent of which is unreliable access to nutritious, healthy options. With COVID-19 exacerbating pre-existing inequities and inadequacies in global food systems, poor diets and their resultant boosting of obesity present an urgent problem for vulnerable populations in developing countries. “The pandemic is creating a problem not of food availability, but of food access because people will have less income because of the recession,” explained Maximo Torero, chief economist of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

UN Data further showed that if the trend of limited food access continues, the world’s hungry will surpass 840 million by 2030 — the very same year 193 countries have set as their target by which they will have eliminated all forms of malnutrition. And with disruptions to agricultural supply chains due to COVID-19, governments face growing pressure to take unprecedented action to tackle the worldwide spikes in food prices if they are to meet this target. It is also no coincidence that nearly all of the 50 countries with the most risk for sustained food-price swings have developing economies, according to Nomura’s Food Vulnerability Index.

Healthy eating emphasizes fresh produce and lean meats, ideally locally-sourced with minimal processing and preservatives. However, the agricultural and meat industries were the first and most affected when governments implemented COVID-19 quarantines and travel restrictions. The successive disruptions meant it was more difficult for farms to receive agriculture inputs of seeds, fertilizer and equipment, further delaying production of healthy eating staples: rice, maize, wheat, vegetables and other produce. Producers of unhealthier, more processed foods don’t face the same problem of financial losses from rotting food. Thus, during this time, those foods are more accessible and affordable at the expense of poorer consumers’ health.

The Effects: COVID-19 and Obesity

Unfortunately, the connection between COVID-19, poverty and obesity works in reverse as well. Obesity is a major risk factor for a more severe infection, resulting in higher hospitalization and death rates once one has caught the virus. Most recently, a number of studies and anecdotes have noted obesity as the predominant risk factor in youth, with cardiologist David Kass concluding “in populations with a high prevalence of obesity, COVID-19 will affect younger populations more than previously reported.” The CDC has incorporated these findings by specifying that obesity is just as significant a risk factor for severe COVID-19 illness as a suppressed immune system or chronic lung disease.

Though researchers have mostly focused on the link between COVID-19 and obesity in high-income countries, it may have more devastating effects in the developing world. Not only does evidence show “over 70% of the world’s 2 billion overweight and obese individuals live in low or middle-income countries,” obesity also leads to higher health care costs and lower work productivity, which go hand-in-hand with greater consumption of cheaper, unhealthy food options. The created feedback loop is referred to as the “double burden of malnutrition.” Moreover, as Kass’s findings suggested, the victims of COVID-19 in developing countries are younger. In India and Mexico respectively, less than 12% and 17% of deaths were of individuals older than 75, and both of these countries report much more deaths of middle-aged and younger individuals than the U.S. and Europe do.

Solutions to Improve Global Food Security

One estimate of how much governmental spending is needed to combat COVID-19’s effects on hunger and obesity was $10 billion, put forth by the International Food Policy Research Institute. However, even this amount may be insufficient when considering that food insecurity will only continue compounding if addressing poverty isn’t a cornerstone of the solutions put forth. The World Food Programme has prioritized this need for financial safety nets and social protection programs until investment in nutrition and expansion of social protections. Their Executive Director David Beasley plans to allocate $1.9 billion of already pledged funding to build food and cash stockpiles as a “life-saving buffer,” protecting the world’s poor from food shortages and food-price hikes. They also requested a further $350 million to set up transportation systems, limiting shortages and disruptions in the agricultural industry from occurring in the first place.

In combination with these correctional measures, governments should adopt a preventative approach to addressing obesity. “One of the most effective ways to address obesity and other non-communicable diseases is by ramping up investments in affordable, quality primary health care,” says Dr. Muhammad Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank. “This makes sense both from a health and an economic perspective. Putting more resources on the front lines to detect and treat conditions early, before they become more serious, saves lives, improves health outcomes, reduces health care costs and strengthens preparedness.” With these efforts in place, the paradoxical relationship between poverty and obesity may begin to ease.

– Christine Mui
Photo: PXFuel