How the UN World Food Program Endeavors to End Hunger Through AccessAccording to the United Nations World Food Program, food production has risen to a point that enables the entire planet to be fed, even as the population is expected to grow. Yet, the world’s supply disproportionately meets the needs of all its inhabitants. Starvation kills more children in developing countries than some of the deadliest communicable diseases that are disseminating upon the impoverished. If the solution to starvation is not production than the solution must be to end hunger through access. The U.N. has put three plans into action based on this solution.

Warehouses of Hope

Warehouses of Hope is the U.N.’s first plan to end hunger through access. The former executive of the U.N. World Food Program, Josette Sheeran coined the phrase “Warehouses of Hope” which are essentially banks for food. The villages manage these banks. In addition, it can be unlocked with three different keys, entrusted to three different villagers. Although food assistance can help many people in many countries, food banks provide a more sustainable answer. Hundreds of villages have been able to independently provide for themselves and their children with these warehouses. The program is successful to the point that the villages established school feeding programs for the village children.

Lean season in developing countries is the time between harvests. It is when jobs, earnings and food all are in short supply. As a result, this can lead to severe cases of hunger and devastating effects on the community. The idea behind Warehouses of Hope is to take the food that is supplied in the banks out during the lean season. Additionally, the villager can put some of the food back during harvest with interest by adding 5-10% more to the warehouse. When the next lean season comes, the cycle repeats. the village can consistently end hunger through access.

One Meal in Exchange for Staying in School

The second plan to end hunger through access is One Meal in Exchange for Staying in School. School feeding programs have become much more of a priority in developing countries because it will set major advancements in motion towards reaching Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the program benefits are gaining more recognition, some communities face major obstacles in their ability to implement a school feeding program. The initiatives are costly. At the same time, in order for these programs to last, the communities need to be sure that they will be able to acquire local and consistent proportions of food.

In addition to supplying food, the children will benefit far more if interventions were put in place such as deworming. In addition, assuring that each child receives a proper amount of micronutrients in their meals will greatly benefit them. This will enhance children’s cognitive development. Moreover, the U.N. found that by offering one meal a day to children at school in developing countries, the enrollment escalated significantly, especially in young girls. Not only did it encourage attendance while providing crucial nutrition to these girls but it prolonged the span of their education. The program also decreased child marriage and nourished those who were pregnant. This will in turn decrease the risks of malnourished babies and concerning developmental consequences.

Digital Food

Digitial is the third plan of U.N.’s solution to end hunger through access. When food is available, the prices will rise. Consequently, this can still lead to scarcity amongst families in developing countries. The U.N.’s digital food cards replace the usual methods of food aid. Instead, it enables low-income families to go into regional markets and purchase nine items with the swipe of a card. Each purchase must be a locally produced and nutritious food item. These cards have created a significant rise in the dairy industry and a boost in local employment opportunities at shops and markets.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides us with a foundational understanding of the incapacitating effects of hunger. It very much foretells a globally dim future as hunger continues to plague society. Imagine a world where peace, security and stability allow the underserved to thrive. Without a human’s basic needs being met, that solidity will remain wishful thinking.

Amy Schlagel

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Solutions on How to End HungerSignificant success has been achieved in alleviating global hunger since the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000. Of 129 participating countries, 72 met target MDG 1c of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger. Prevalence of undernourishment in developing countries has dropped from 23.3 percent to 12.9 percent over the past 25 years, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Despite such improvement, approximately 793 million people are still starving. How to end hunger remains a significant question.

The disparity exists in the magnitude of advancements between different regions. Countries with stable political and economic conditions and reliable social support met their international hunger targets. But nations in a state of protracted crisis failed due to lack of income opportunities for impoverished groups. Region-specific causes and solutions need to be identified to end hunger. Four underlying causes and resolutions on how to end hunger are listed below.

  1. Poverty Trap
    People stuck in an endless loop of poverty and deprived of nutritious food become weak and unable to work. Farmers without access to land, seeds, tools, fertilizers, clean water or education are incapable of effecting positive change. Such families benefit from financial assistance and voucher programs for food, health insurance and school meals complemented by procurement contracts with local farmers. Conditional transfer programs (CTP) provide backup to low-income families in the form of cash or benefits under the obligation that the family uses the aid to invest in the children’s wellbeing. The first CTP, the Oportunidades program, was initiated in Mexico in 1997. These programs are now prevalent in most developing regions of the world, especially Latin America.Food Assistance for Assets (FFA), established by the World Food Programme (WFP), the largest humanitarian organization in the world, provides food assistance to the disadvantaged in exchange for their help in building infrastructural assets that benefit the whole community.
  2. Lack of Agricultural Infrastructure
    Lack of cost-effective resources such as reliable transport, storage and water supply impedes rural farmers’ productivity and access to food. The least-developed, poor economies rely on agriculture for 27-30 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and sustainable farming has a direct positive impact on acute poverty and the “how to end hunger” question. This correlation is more pronounced in an environment of income equality. China drastically lowered poverty from the 80’s to mid-90’s due to agricultural growth from an equal share in the farmland. A comparable impact on poverty reduction is less evident in Latin America and India in spite of higher yields due to unequal land allocation and mechanized farming. Agricultural investment policies for effective land management, use of water and access to resilient seed types aid in ending hunger. Easy access to markets is equally important for smallholder farmers to generate income. Producing food with no avenue for sale is futile. The WFP’s initiative, Purchase for Progress (P4P), provides opportunities for rural farmers to sell their produce in markets, collaborate and expand.
  3. Education
    Education is another key aspect to enhancing sustainable food security. Educating rural populations is critical for smallholder farmers and women to derive benefits from agricultural growth through collaborations in the value chain.It also facilitates recruitment of current uneducated populations in the non-agricultural workforce. This is especially important in economies not predominantly reliant on agriculture. Education gives communities the ability to secure an income and improve earning potential through independent entrepreneurship.Instruction and training resources on nutrition and family planning are crucial tools for preventing malnutrition. According to the World Hunger Education Service, enhanced education for women improves nutrition for the whole family.
  4. Gender Gap
    Gender equality is vital to answering the question of how to end hunger. Women represent approximately 43 percent of the labor force in developing countries. But predispositions regarding women’s roles hamper their contribution to reducing poverty and hunger.Though women’s farming capabilities match that of their male counterparts, reduced access to quality land, seeds, tools, fertilizers, animals and education results in lower yields. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that equal distribution of resources for women would increase yields by 20-30 percent. This translates to an increased output of 2.5-4 percent and 100-150 million more people with access to food.In most societies, women spend 85-90 percent of their time on domestic activities, an added hindrance to their earnings. Rural labor markets also suffer from gender disparity. Women are mostly employed in seasonal, part-time and low-paying jobs. Household obligations, sociocultural norms and lack of education diminishes their potential.Policy interventions including education, elimination of discriminatory segregation, equal access to resources and financial services, sustainable technologies enabling female participation in labor markets and infrastructural improvements to lighten household burdens assuage gender inequality.

Groundbreaking progress has been made but it has been uneven and the end goal not met. About half of deaths in children under five are caused by malnutrition, resulting in three million lives lost each year. The question of how to end hunger is complex and urgent. The answer lies in integrated strategies targeting region-specific needs. The Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the U.N. in 2015 provide strategic solutions to achieving the goal of food security, improving nutrition and ending hunger. As the FAO Director General, Graziano da Silva said, “We must be the Zero Hunger generation.” Anything short of this is unacceptable.

Preeti Yadav

Photo: Flickr