The United Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948 as a minimum standard of treatment and quality of life for all people in all nations. Article 25, section 1 of the declaration states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food…” As important as these words are, they have not yet become a reality for many people in the world. Some common solutions to food insecurity may help alleviate world hunger.
Falling Short of the U.N. Standards
Often, countries represented in the U.N. fall short on the promise to provide adequate, nutritious food to everyone, including the United States of America. Malnutrition and food insecurities can be attributed to many causes worldwide: political turmoil, environmental struggles and calamities, lack of financial resources and lack of infrastructure to distribute food equally within a country.
It is widely known that the poorest nations often lack the means or the will to sufficiently supply food to the people and their most vulnerable populations. Ethnic minority groups, women and children and those living in rural areas often suffer the most. In 2006, the Center for Disease Control reported that widespread media attention in 2005 brought global awareness to a food crisis in the West African country of Niger. According to the report, out of Niger’s population of 11.5 million in 2002, 2.5 million people living in farming or grazing areas were vulnerable to food insecurities.
Identifying the Problem in Food Distribution
In her article entitled Food Distribution in America, Monica Johnson writes, “With each step added between the farm and the consumer, money is taken away from the farmer. Typically, farmers are paid 20 cents on the dollar. So even if the small-scale/medium-sized farmer is able to work with big food distributors, they are typically not paid enough to survive.” Essentially, the middlemen are taking profit directly out of the farmer’s hands.
In America, conventional food supply chains are used in the mass distribution of food. This method starts with produced raw goods. These products are transferred to distribution centers that may offload goods to wholesalers or sell them directly to food retailers where these goods are finally purchased by consumers at grocery stores and markets. Food may travel very long distances throughout this process to be consumed by people who could have purchased comparable foods grown much closer to home.
One example is the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center (HPFDC), which is one of the largest food distributors in the United States, with over $2 billion in annual sales. According to the New York Economic Development Commission, it sits on 329 acres of land in the Bronx, New York. It supplies over 50 percent of the food consumed by people in the area and also supplies its goods to about 20 percent of people in the region. Yet, still, the Food Bank of New York City reported a meal gap of 242 million in 2014 and food insecurity levels of 22.3 percent, with 399,000 of those people being children.
Solutions Lie in Local Support
About 13 years after the Niger food crisis, the country is still one of the poorest in the world. The World Food Program (WFP), headquartered in Rome, Italy, continues to focus on fixing the problem of food insecurity in nations like Niger. Through helping those like Nigeriens build sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems for crop cultivation, the WFP hopes to lower the high levels of food insecurities and issues related to them, such as malnutrition and the high mortality rate among children under the age of five.
One essential component in the common solutions to food insecurity is assisting locals with the sustainable management of local natural resources through soil conservation, water harvesting, rehabilitating irrigation systems and reducing the loss of biodiversity. This is directed toward localized measures to solve food deficiency issues.
The same steps need to happen in America. The HPFDC in New York, in an effort led by Mayor Bill de Blasio, is planning to upgrade facilities and operations. A plan that includes working with other food distributors at the state level to increase integration with upstate and regional food distribution, supporting local farms and providing growth opportunities for emerging regional food distribution models.
These common solutions to food insecurity could help feed millions of people around the world. Reducing the middlemen in food distribution will put more money back into the hands of the farmers. Additionally, by reinforcing sustainable farming at local levels, farmers will have more opportunities to provide relief from food insecurity in their own communities with more nutritional diversity, which can reduce malnutrition and high mortality rates.