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Fighting Food Waste in Denmark
One out of every eight people worldwide doesn’t have adequate access to food. This sobering statistic is even more upsetting when contrasted with the amount of food wasted each year that amounts to 1.3 billion tons. That is almost one-third of all food produced for humans. This amount is well beyond what would be necessary to feed every hungry person alive today.

Facts like these are why the U.N. is committed to fighting food waste. The 12th U.N. Sustainable Development Goal includes the target of cutting international food waste in half by 2030.

Of course, this goal can only be met through international cooperation. Thankfully, many countries around the world are taking this issue seriously. In recent years, Denmark has risen to become one of the world’s leaders in fighting food waste.

Small Movements, Big Impacts

Despite being one of the smaller nations in Europe and having a population smaller than London, Denmark has more projects aimed at reducing food waste than any other European nation. The country has achieved this by using a highly cooperative approach between the government, businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Several food banks and other nonprofits in Denmark get their supplies through donations from local supermarkets or restaurants. One supermarket in Copenhagen, Wefood, only sells food that would have otherwise been wasted. Typically, this is food that has reached its sell-by date or has not been used up at the end of restaurant business hours. Sometimes, this food consists of perfectly healthy fruits and vegetables that simply appear too misshapen and unattractive to reach market shelves.

Denmark’s government works to support these projects with a combination of funding and official awareness campaigns.

Stop Wasting Food

One of the largest and most impactful waste-fighting organizations in Denmark is Stop Spild Af Mad, known in English as Stop Wasting Food. This nonprofit organization was founded in 2008 and has been working toward achieving Sustainable Development Goal number 12 ever since.

Stop Wasting Food has worked directly with the Danish government and has ongoing partnerships with both E.U. and U.N. organizations. It also harnesses nationwide media attention to raise public awareness of food waste and lobbies supermarkets to implement waste-reducing policies in their stores.

As young as Stop Wasting Food is, it has been instrumental in helping Denmark achieve impressive results. Between the efforts of the government, businesses and willing Danish citizens, Denmark has been able to cut its food waste by a quarter since 2010 alone.

Global Applications

Abovementioned one-quarter mark is significant. If the entire world could achieve the same reduction of food waste, we could feed nearly 95 percent of all food-deprived people in the world without needing to produce any additional food.

The importance of fighting food waste will only become more obvious as we approach the 2030 date set by the Sustainable Development Goals. By 2050, the global population could spike up to nine billion and require significant additional resources for our food production to keep up. While reducing waste may not completely negate this need, it could give us the means to sustainably keep hundreds of millions fed.

Whatever the case, Denmark is a shining example for the rest of the world, and particularly for developed countries, to look up to. Denmark’s policies have both provided cheap sources of food for its own poorer citizens and a roadmap for how government and private cooperation can achieve significant change in only a few years.

Joshua Henreckson

Photo: Flickr

what is hungerHunger is an easy enough concept to imagine. Most people in the world have experienced it at some level or maybe even gone an entire day without food. But what is hunger at a global level? When hunger is discussed as an issue, there is a major gap between the conception of hunger and how those without access to food experience hunger. In the end, hunger is a systemic problem in people’s lives; those who suffer from hunger are unable to consistently achieve proper nutrition and face food insecurity.

Facts and Figures

Hunger still affects more than 800 million world citizens. This number reflects about one in every nine people worldwide. Hunger is most common in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population suffers from undernourishment. The continent of Asia contains the highest number of hungry people, while Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hunger – one person in every four faces undernourishment. 

Famine: Extreme Hunger

The most extreme cases of hunger on a public scale are famines, where an excess of deaths occurs as a result of starvation or hunger-induced diseases. These diseases are often preventable with a proper diet, but although there is an excess of food worldwide, the hunger originates in that food being inaccessible. Lack of access is often caused by a insufficient funding and war within an area, as seen in the South Sudan famine declared by the U.N. in February of 2017.

In daily life for undernourished people, hunger takes the form of reduced meals. In 2011, a drought in a Kenyan herding community caused sickly animals. As a result of not being able to afford enough to eat, one woman’s family was forced to cut back to just one or two meals per day as opposed to three. They also could no longer afford “luxuries” like milk. Even with access to water, there is no money to buy food if crops and animals cannot produce. 

The Costs of Hunger

New research shows that generations down the line will also be impacted by the costs of hunger. While it is well-known that young children are often the most vulnerable to hunger, Columbia University’s 2014 study of genes in roundworms after an initial starved generation found that small changes in an organism’s molecular makeup due to its health can be passed on. This means that even after hunger has been reduced, future generations may still see its effects in their own lives.

Combating Hunger

Fortunately, hunger and famine rates have decreased. The Global Goals of Sustainable Development include ending hunger and creating food security and sustainable farming as its number two goal, set to be achieved by 2030. The best strategies for ending hunger are supporting small farmers, targeting infant nutrition and utilizing biotechnology in crop creation.

Additionally, legislative action in the United States Congress is working toward alleviating hunger worldwide. The Food for Peace Modernization currently seeks to make the Food for Peace program more efficient – at no cost to taxpayers – so that it can provide food to nearly nine million more people. Understanding what hunger is can create measures like this worldwide and offer new chances for those suffering from hunger to find relief.

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr

How Many People are StarvingMost people have an idea of what global starvation is. Nonprofit marketing campaigns aim to tug at the heartstrings of the developed world. And, as a whole, they have done their job. People know about the existence of world hunger. But what about the details? How many people are starving?

This is where knowledge of global hunger ends for many. Despite seeing it in advertisements, global hunger seems like a distant idea to most. Few people know that undernourishment impacts 795 million people globally. Even though this number has decreased by 167 million over the last ten years, that number is still large.

For certain areas, the problem is worse than others. One out of every five people in the developing world struggles with undernourishment. Looking forward, there is reason to believe that the situation will not become easier to solve. To meet forecasted demand, food production in developing countries must double by 2050.

The need for action is clear. Several countries have undertaken efforts to diminish how many people are starving globally. Yet, given the size of the problem, the solution has proved to be complex.

The U.N.’s 1996 World Food Summit met to develop methods to cut world hunger in half by 2015. The summit included almost 200 countries committed to helping global food security.

Unfortunately, the meeting was not able to cut hunger in half by 2015. The majority of the failure was due to a lack of concrete plans for implementation. Despite falling short of its goal to cut hunger, the summit engaged world leaders on food issues. It offered a forum to brainstorm solutions to global questions about food disparity.

Turning questions about how many people are starving into action to help is key. Indeed, there is a fair amount of momentum pushing forward the solution to food disparity. Total calories per person have risen since the 1960s. Yet, despite rising calories per person, certain issues with food security remain.

What is the solution? To increase global food access, many believe the answer lies in technology. A few of these methods include:

  • A “seawater greenhouse” that is able to use nearby saltwater to grow crops in the desert
  • Precision agriculture that utilizes GPS for fertilization and watering
  • Robot farm workers to maximize efficiency and profit

Yet, despite being marvels of technology, these solutions are costly. An easier way to lessen food inequality is through the proper education of farmers. In developing nations, teaching avoidance of slash-and-burn agriculture can make a noticeable difference. This farming practice is common in areas where growing is difficult or education is lacking.

Farmers in certain regions cut down and burn the land before planting a crop. In doing this, the ash acts as a fertilizer, producing crops without investment. But despite producing short-term yields for regions, the practice is destructive over time. Lack of biodiversity, increased carbon emissions and massive deforestation can result from slash-and-burn. To combat this, programs to educate farmers on sustainable farming practices are essential.

Solutions to this destructive method exist. The Inga Alley Cropping method of farming is one such example. In this method, farmers plant Inga trees to balance the soil’s nutritional content. The result is a sustainable way to grow in places where slash-and-burn is the norm.

Education is a key part of solving food disparities. And with the numbers showing a decline in undernourishment, there is hope on the horizon. Education programs continue to lessen food insecurity in the developing world. Working with technology, there is great potential for increasing global food access.

These factors, combined with continued government efforts, could be the answer. Working together, a world with dinner on every table might be obtainable. Asking questions is the first step.

– Robert Schacht

Photo: Flickr

Asia is the largest continent in the world, covering 17,139,445 square miles with a population of 4,406,273,633 people. Despite widespread economic success, Asia remains the worst continent for global hunger and contains more than half of the world’s poorest people. Below are 13 facts about poverty in Asia that everyone should know.

  1. Urban Poor
    A reported 75 million people were living below the poverty line of $3.10 in 2017, placing them at high disaster risk. China, Indonesia and the Philippines make up the most of East Asia’s urban poor.
  2. Hunger
    About 519.6 million people do not have enough food to eat in Asia, and a prominent 70 percent of world’s malnourished children live on the eastern continent. Due to lack of proper nutrients, 100 million children in Asia are stunted, 28 percent of the total youth population.
  3. Average Income
    In 2017, Afghanistan had the lowest annual average income in the world at $1,100.
  4. Sanitation
    The second biggest cause of death among children under five years old in more than 60 percent of East Asia is diarrhoeal diseases. About two out of every five people in East Asia do not have proper sanitation facilities. Open defecation is still practiced by 130 million people throughout countries in the region.
  5. Women
    Representing two-thirds of the poor due to discrimination in education and employment, women make up a significant amount of the people in poverty in Asia.
  6. Rice
    With the decline of rice sales in some economies, such as in Cambodia, Myanmar and Lao PDR, nations will have to shift their focus of economic growth in order to continuously reduce poverty in their countries.
  7. Children
    With education unaffordable and families trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, child labor is prominent in Asia. Children experience excessively long hours and are placed in harm’s way doing hazardous work.
  8. Natural Disaster and Climate Change
    Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, extreme temperatures, storms, wildfires and droughts affect agriculture in Asia. According to World Vision, Asia Pacific is the most disaster-prone region in the world.
  9. Government
    In 2015, over 60 percent of Asian Pacific countries scored below 50 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. This indicates a serious corruption problem. Poverty, corruption and development are interrelated issues.
  10. Organic Farming
    Offering a means of generating more income, organic farming presents opportunity, but for those who can afford it. For small farmers, certification is costly and is not in the name or control of the farmer who is paying for the form. This diminishes potential commitment or interest in organic farming.
  11. Rural Poor
    In many regions across Asia, up to 90 percent of poor people live in rural areas. Poor rural households usually have larger families who are underemployed and are less educated. Access to credit and technology is limited.
  12. Minorities
    In Vietnam, ethnic groups make up around 12 million of the 90 million population, but account for over two-fifths of the country’s poverty. These inequalities fuel the poverty in Asia.
  13. Education
    Many students attending primary school in South Asia are taught on rote bases. This leads to many weakened skills such as problem solving, writing grammatically correct sentences and measuring. In 2014, studies showed that “one quarter to one third of those who graduate from primary school lack basic numeracy and literacy skills that would enable them to further their education.”

Through these important facts about poverty in Asia, it becomes clear that, within the continent of Asia, every country is experiencing their own levels of poverty. With hope, the strides achieved through economic achievement will start to create a positive impact on residents, reducing poverty in Asia until it is nonexistent.

– Tara Jackson

Photo: Flickr

How many people are starving around the world?In the U.S., it is not uncommon to hear the all-too-familiar phrase about “the starving children in Africa” who would “love to have that food you are wasting!” Seemingly daily reminders of a how many people are starving around the world permeate Western society, whether through billboards, commercials, requests to donate to X or Y charity at the grocery checkout or homeless people begging at stoplights.

Despite all these reminders, the U.S. ranks lower than the average developed country in the Commitment to Development Index. Designed by the Center for Global Development (CDG), the Commitment to Development Index measures developed countries’ contributions to providing necessary aid in seven fields: aid, finance, technology, environment, trade, security and migration. Out of the 27 countries measured, the U.S. ranks twenty-third overall.

In the meantime, approximately 793 million people are starving around the world, according to the U.N. That makes up about 11 percent of the population. Of the 793 million, more than 100 million suffer from severe malnutrition and risk starving to death. Of the 793 million, 780 million, or 98 percent, inhabit developing countries. One million children under the age of five die from malnourishment each year, comprising 45 percent of all child deaths up to age five.

A person living comfortably in a developed country may find it difficult to address issues like global poverty or think about how many people are starving around the world. Though not necessarily intentional, this lack of awareness leads to inaction. When local political figures do not hear anything from the people they represent on certain issues, they focus on addressing other topics about which people seem to care more. As a result, bills regarding hunger do not get passed, people do not volunteer their energy and nothing gets done about global poverty.

Considering how many people are starving around the world today, people in developed countries must take action, even just by calling or emailing their political representatives about addressing global poverty. Though it seems like an insurmountable task, enough mobilization beginning at the individual level can help to eradicate poverty once and for all.

– Francesca Colella

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in UkraineUkraine made global headlines just over three years ago, when weeks of protests culminated in the Maidan revolution that unseated President Viktor Yanukovych. Russia’s subsequent seizure of Crimea and the outbreak of war in the Russian-speaking east caused the country’s economy to collapse, plunging many Ukrainians into poverty and hunger.

Ukraine’s GDP decreased by 6.6 percent in 2014 and 9.8 percent in 2015, when fighting in the east escalated and devastated the once-rich industrial regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Ukraine is now home to one of the most violent conflicts on the planet.

Around 1.5 million Ukrainians suffered from hunger due to the conflict in eastern Ukraine after two years of fighting in 2016, with 300,000 in need of immediate help and food aid. The ongoing war led Ukraine to become the only European country to require assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP), which distributed rations and aid to Ukrainians in the east. The WFP has assisted over one million people in the country since it began operations there in August 2014.

Hunger is also a problem in western and central Ukraine, untouched by the conflict but still deeply affected by the country’s economic crisis. Corruption is still seen as a major problem after the 2014 revolution, and protests against the government of President Petro Poroshenko have erupted over concerns of rising poverty and corruption.

While the war has left over 2,500 civilians dead, the conflict has stalled and Ukraine is making progress in reducing poverty since the most violent periods of the war. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2017 Global Hunger Index, Ukraine sharply reduced its rate of hunger over the last several years and was one of the strongest performers after China since 2008.

– Giacomo Tognini
Photo: Flickr

Feed the FutureRecently the U.S. Agency for International Aid Development Administrator, Mark Green, announced the next phase for Feed the Future, and listed 12 countries that will be targeted to receive aid.

Feed the Future is a global hunger and food insecurity initiative that was founded in 2010. Originally, the project targeted 19 countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Rwanda, Senegal, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Since 2011, Feed the Future has contributed to reducing poverty by 19 percent and dropped child stunting by 26 percent. 9 million more people are living over the poverty line and 1.7 million households are no longer suffering from hunger. Feed the Future farmers have produced higher maize and groundnut yields that were, on average, 23 percent and 64 percent higher than national averages.

Going forward, Green stated that the countries that would be targeted for this next phase are Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda. These countries were chosen based on their level of need, potential for growth, opportunities for partnership, opportunities for regional efficiencies, host government commitment and resource availability.

In Bangladesh, 40 million people (25 percent) remain food insecure and 31.5 percent of the population live below the poverty line. Ethiopia faces a 29.6 percent poverty rate and 40.2 percent of people are malnourished. In Ghana, the poverty rate is 25.2 percent which is a significant decrease, however there are still a lot of Ghanaians who are food insecure and live below the poverty line.

In Honduras, there is a 33 percent poverty rate and it is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Kenya has a 42 percent poverty rate and faces a humanitarian crisis as an influx of refugees enter the country. Mali’s gross national income is $580 and the poverty rate is 59.2 percent as of 2005. 25.2 percent of Nepal’s population lives below the poverty line.

The poverty rate in Niger is 48.9 percent. In Nigeria, the poverty rate is 53.5 percent and their GDP growth is -1.5 percent. Senegal’s poverty rate is 38 percent and the GNI is $950. Finally, Uganda has a 34.6 percent poverty rate and a GNI of $660.

In the new phase, each of the target countries will develop a whole-government plan for reaching the goals laid out in the Global Food security strategy. This will focus its efforts on promoting sustainable developments and providing people in these areas with knowledge and resources to be able to feed themselves long term.

The announcement arrived just a year after the passing of the historic U.S. Global Food Security Act and is meant to continue the progress that began with that law.

– Téa Franco

Photo: Google

Hunger has been defined in many different ways. Richard D. Mattes and Mark I. Friedman define hunger as “a physiological or metabolic state that results from a lack of energy or nutrients.” The two researchers detail the physical responses that occur within our bodies when proper nutrition isn’t provided in their 1993 paper, “Hunger.”

According to the Economic Development Association, nearly one billion people currently suffer from hunger worldwide. Although this number is appalling, efforts are being made around the world to decrease global hunger. The World Food Program (WFP) is a leading humanitarian organization that has aided in providing food to roughly 100 million people in more than 70 countries annually. It abides by two key missions: providing humanitarian relief and achieving developmental goals.

Its highest financial contribution comes from Switzerland’s humanitarian assistance program. Switzerland has committed to ending global hunger under the Food Aid Convention, its objective being to “improve the ability of the international community to respond to emergency food situations and other food needs of developing countries.” In its involvement with the WFP operations, Switzerland considers the following conditions:

  • Care requirements and financial urgency
  • Potential collaborations with other Swiss programs
  • Presence of a Swiss cooperation office on-site

Switzerland finances experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit to plan programs to alleviate hunger in affected countries. Trained specialists manage everything from emergency care to cash and voucher programs.  The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation states that there is a condition for providing this assistance: “it is essential to ensure that international humanitarian law and international humanitarian standards and principles are respected.”

Switzerland is devoted to the sustainable use of natural resources in its war against global hunger. This includes better access to loans, drought-resistant seeds and local food markets in the most deprived countries. Switzerland has supported a variety of causes, from the construction of wastewater purification systems and drinking water plants in Macedonia to the Small Enterprises Assistance Fund, a venture capital fund for small and medium-sized enterprises. During its 27 years of support, the fund’s mission has been to improve the lives of those who greatly require it.

– Nicole Suárez

Photo: CIA World Factbook

This Bar Saves Lives“Buy a bar, Feed a child” is the life-changing mission of snack bar company This Bar Saves Lives, with its nonprofit partners that distribute packets of food for every bar purchased to where it’s needed most. With 2,302,895 meal packets donated to date, the lives of millions of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition received the treatment and prevention methods they need in the form of various food products to go on to lead normal, healthy lives.

“Pretty Little Liars” actress Troian Bellisario recently teamed up with the brand, holding an interview session at the BUILD Studio in New York City to help raise awareness for the cause. The company is also discussing plans with Starbucks and Target to combat hunger domestically.

Two major points of emphasis for This Bar Saves Lives are treatment and prevention. For every one of the 2.6 million children who die from severe acute malnutrition each year, there are 10 more at risk of suffering the same fate. Working against this harsh reality, This Bar Saves Lives has developed a treatment in the last decade, Plumpy’Nut®, which has become one of the most important weapons in the war on global hunger.

The product is a nutrient-rich paste made from peanuts, milk powder, sugar, vegetable oils and a mixture of vitamins and minerals. Its simplicity makes it so that it can be eaten right away – no need to be cooked or refrigerated. In addition, Plumpy’Nut® has a two-year shelf life and consuming three a day for seven weeks can take a child from near death to survival. In terms of prevention, Nutributter® was designed for undernourished children below the age of two to prevent stunting, which affects a child’s growth, as well as lifelong health and productivity.

This July, Bellisario shared about her involvement with the company, “Raising awareness about child hunger… has always been a subject that is incredibly personal and important to me… I’m thrilled to be a part of such an exciting and important initiative.” Her husband Patrick Adams added, “I couldn’t be more proud to be working with everyone at This Bar Saves Lives to draw more attention to this problem and to help children in need find their way to an important and potentially life-saving meal.”

Since 2013, This Bar Saves Lives has teamed up with various international organization partners, including Action Against Hunger, Edesia and Second Mile Haiti to distribute food aid to Haiti, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines, Mexico and Guatemala.

Mikaela Frigillana
Photo: Flickr

BRICS CountriesFive countries known as BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — have become shining examples of successful poverty reduction with strong agricultural research systems and technologies. With major agricultural economies, the BRICS countries are leaders in the movement to eradicate global hunger and poverty in developing countries.

Agriculture is a major contributor to economic growth and poverty reduction, and BRICS play an important role in helping developing countries meet the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. As contributors of more than 40 percent of the world’s population and more than 20 percent of the world’s GDP, the five countries account for more than one-third of global cereal production.

“In low-income countries, growth originating from agriculture is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth originating from other sectors of the economy,” Kundhavi Kadiresan, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, said at the seventh meeting of the BRICS ministers of agriculture.

BRICS countries lead the fight against global hunger and poverty with essential knowledge and technologies for sustainable development and rural growth through agriculture. FAO collaborates with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Food Policy Research Institute to confirm that the technologies benefit smallholders. With BRICS agricultural research systems, developing countries will assess their challenges and find sustainable solutions.

According to FAO, biotechnology and agro-ecological approaches would also, “play a key role in these advances. Climate-smart agriculture will be essential to adapt to the uncertain changes facing our farmers, and it will rely heavily on cutting-edge research.”

Information and communication technologies address many of the challenges smallholders face, including prices, weather forecasts, vaccines and financial services. For example, South Africa’s Festa Tlala is a government-led initiative to support cultivated land expansion and food production for smallholder farmers. As BRICS find working solutions to global hunger and poverty, developing countries will increase their production and productivity with similar tools and approaches.

In addition, social protection programs help rural development and poverty reduction by strengthening family farmers and their entrepreneurship. Enriching health, education and other services outside of farming plays a significant role in developing a country, as do international trade, promoting food security and balancing the domestic food economy.

As leaders in poverty reduction and achieving Sustainable Development Goals, BRICS technologies and approaches for agricultural growth assist in strengthening developing countries by 2030. Their role could shape the economies of countries all around the globe.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr