For most, hunger is a nagging rumble in one’s stomach that signals lunch or dinnertime. However, for millions of people worldwide, the definition of hunger is a persistent state of physical and psychological harm caused by a lack of nutritional and economic resources.

On a global scale, the simplest definition of hunger is a scarcity of food in a country. This occurs when the population of a country quite literally does not have enough to eat. In most developed countries, only a relatively small percentage of citizens suffer from hunger. However, in poorer developing countries this portion of the population can be as high as 73 percent. In fact, almost 98 percent of world hunger happens in underdeveloped countries.

On an individual scale, hunger occurs when a person consumes an insufficient amount of calories to sustain them, called malnourishment. When a person has an insufficient amount of the right kinds of foods to keep them healthy it is malnutrition. In most countries where hunger is a significant social and economic problem, both malnourishment and malnutrition are common. Poverty is the number one cause of hunger since it results in a lack of ability to buy food and pay for the expansion of agricultural programs.

Another definition of hunger involves the mental uncertainty of future access to food; in other words, not knowing where the next meal is coming from. The technical term for this phenomenon is food insecurity. Many organizations working to end hunger such as Bread.org seek to achieve the goal of global food security. The World Food Summit defined this as when “all people at all times have access to sufficient safe and nutritious food for an active and healthy life.”

The costs of hunger are far-reaching and have long-term negative impacts on populations. Those who suffer from hunger are more susceptible to illnesses. Children who face malnutrition during their first two years of life experience lifelong consequences. If nutritional needs are not met during this key window of roughly 1,000 days between conception and age two, stunted growth and learning impairments develop.

Fortunately, great strides have been made to end world hunger. The Millennium Development Goals program was successful in cutting malnourishment in 72 out of 129 countries by half. The current Global Goals for Sustainable Development campaign, which launched in 2016 and is comprised of 193 different world leaders, seeks to provide food security for the remaining estimated 795 million people still suffering from hunger by 2030.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr