Crop fields Nigeria
Food insecurity is outlawed by international rule of law. The Universal 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.”

Causes of Food Insecurity

Often times, countries that are a part of the U.N. fall short on this promise to provide adequate nutritious food to everyone, including the United States of America. Malnutrition and food insecurity can be attributed to many causes worldwide, from 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 population, ethnic minority groups, women, and children 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, with a population of 11.5 million in 2002, 2.5 million people living in farming or grazing areas in Niger were vulnerable to food insecurity.

Food Supply Chains

In the United States, 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 long distances throughout this process, to be consumed by people who may have purchased comparable foods grown closer to home.

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 or medium sized farmer is able to work with big food distributors, they are typically not paid enough to survive.”

Hunts Food Distribution Center 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 and supplies over 50 percent of food consumed by people in the area, and also supplies food to about 20 percent of people in the region. Still, the Food Bank of New York City reported a meal gap of 242 million in 2014 and food insecurity of 22.3 percent, with 399,000 of people affected being children.

Solution to the Problem

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 countries like Niger. Through helping those like Nigeriens build sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems for crop cultivation, the WFP hopes to lessen the high levels of food insecurity and issues related to it, such as malnutrition and high mortality rates among children under the age of 5.

Assisting locals to manage sustainable local food resources through soil conservation, water harvesting, rehabilitating irrigation systems and reducing the loss of biodiversity among other efforts, the organization focuses on local measures to solve food insecurity issues.

The same is happening in the United States. The country plans to upgrade agricultural facilities and operations, a plan that includes working with other food distributors at the state level to increase integration with upstate and regional food distributors, supporting local farms, and providing growth opportunities for emerging regional food distribution models.

Food insecurity is a big problem in developing, but in developed countries as well. Countries need to make sure to promote local agriculture development in order to achieve food production that will suffice each country needs.

– Matrinna Woods

Photo: Flickr

ban on trans fat
The World Health Organization is fighting against trans fat in an effort to save thousands of lives. On May 14, WHO announced that it plans to ban trans fat from the global food supply by 2023. The reason behind this ban on trans fat is to reduce the number of those who die from cardiovascular disease.

Why the Ban on Trans Fat is Important

While this global charge has been in effect in other countries such as Denmark and the United States, it has been harder to implement in the developing countries of North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death globally, averaging 500,000 premature (under the age of 70) deaths every year. Over 75 percent of this number takes place in low and middle-income countries.

Cardiovascular disease is linked to an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, smoking and being overweight. While all of these may be linked to cardiovascular disease, an unhealthy diet generates a greater risk than the other three. An unhealthy diet accounts for an estimated 11.3 million deaths annually. One of the greatest contributors to an unhealthy diet is trans fat.

How Trans Fat Disproportionately Affects the Poor

Since many vegetable oils and fats are relatively cheap, there is a greater increase in fat consumption in low-income countries. Along with trans fat and certain oils being cheaper for those in low-income countries, it is also one of the most common ways food is cooked in these regions.

There is a correlation present in these developing nations that with the increase in trans fat consumption, there is an increase in cardiovascular disease. This becomes even more detrimental in that at least half the world does not have access to essential health coverage. There are also about 100 million people falling into extreme poverty because they have to pay for health care.

For example, the probability of dying before age 70 in Iran for males was 47 percent and for females, 39 percent; a majority of this has to do with cardiovascular disease caused by unhealthy diets. In Iran in 2004, 12 percent of the calories consumed were from hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is the main source of trans fat.

Because of this hefty consumption of food cooked in trans fat, Iran, at one point in the past decade, had the second highest cardiovascular death rate in the entire world. Iran then made it a goal to cut down its trans fat consumption to less than one percent. To work toward this goal, it found ways to replace hydrogenated vegetable oil with a different type of vegetable oil.

As Iran has worked with reducing its consumption of trans fat, it is closer to following WHO’s goal and initiative with the ban on trans fat to reduce premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases. One way WHO is implementing its ban on trans fat in other countries is by using the acronym REPLACE. This six-step strategy allows others to make the steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

The following is each step of the REPLACE method that is seen on the World Health Organization’s website:

  1. RE: Review dietary source of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.
  2. P: Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.
  3. L: Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.
  4. A: Assess and monitor trans fat content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.
  5. C: Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policymakers, producers, suppliers and the public.
  6. E: Enforce compliance with policies and regulations.

Working Toward a Healthier Future

Noncommunicable diseases are closely linked with poverty. Those in developing countries have a greater risk of being exposed to unhealthy dietary practices with limited access to healthcare.

The only way to go about reducing the number of noncommunicable deaths is to look at the risk factors head-on. With this ban on trans fat, lives will be saved, not just those in higher social positions and economically well off, but those in low-income countries with inadequate health care as well.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr