What is world hunger?

World hunger is measured by the number of people who are consistently undernourished and don’t get the recommended calorie intake on a daily basis.

For the third year in a row, the number of hungry people grew — as of 2017, there were more than 821 million people facing chronic food deprivation. That’s one in every nine people on the planet.

For example, almost 21 percent of people in Africa face hunger on a daily basis. Asia has the highest total number of people facing chronic food deprivation at more than 11 percent, representing over 515 million people.

While we’ve taken significant steps to eliminate world hunger, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

The compounding problems behind world hunger

Hunger is more than just having enough food to eat – it’s about having enough nutritious food to eat. A diet without a sufficient intake of calories, proteins, vitamins, and minerals impedes human development at every age.

In turn, this negatively impacts the health, education, economic and social development of entire communities across the globe.

Additionally, poor nutrition is attributed to 45 percent of deaths in children under the age of five.

Our planet produces enough food to feed the more than 7 billion people who inhabit it, but systemic inequality and economic disparity have led to unbalanced distribution and unequal access.

There are a number of underlying causes behind world hunger:

Poverty

Millions of people simply cannot afford to either purchase nutritious food, or the land or farming supplies to grow their own.

This can create a devastating cycle: constant hunger leads to low levels of energy and reduced mental & physical functioning, making it difficult to work or learn.

Climate

Weather variability and extremes are becoming a key force behind world hunger. The number of climate-related disasters has doubled since the early 1990s.

Chronic food deprivation is significantly worse in regions with agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to temperature and rainfall variability.

Conflict & Instability

The 2018 Global Report on Food Crises revealed that conflict and instability are the primary culprits behind food insecurity in 18 countries, accounting for 60 percent of the global total.

Conflict impacts both communities and individuals — from infrastructure and land availability, to displacement and inflation of food prices.

Economic Instability

A global economic slowdown has caused rising costs and reduced spending, negatively impacted the ability of people in many countries to feed themselves.

There are also many solutions that can help end world hunger:

Focus on Women

Women make up 45 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, but routinely face more extreme poverty, less education, and have less access or control over land and resources than their male counterparts.

By closing the gender gap, women can be empowered to feed their families, grow nutritious food, expand their businesses and participate in agricultural markets.

Climate Resilience

We need to find ways to strengthen farming systems and livelihoods around the world. In particular, helping vulnerable communities to build resiliency ensures they can cope when emergencies strike.

Sustainable Agriculture

We need to rethink the way we grow, share and consume our food. If managed well, our agriculture, forestry, and fisheries can provide enough nutritious food for everyone on the planet — while also generating sustainable incomes and protecting the environment.

Collaboration

Governments, non-governmental organizations, and global leaders across all sectors need to work together to develop new solutions to ensure food security for everyone. And efforts to fight global hunger must go hand-in-hand with those to sustain world peace.

Here are 3 ways each of us can take action to end world hunger

1. Shop & Eat Local

Shopping the local farmers’ market or growing your own herbs and vegetables is a sustainable, actionable step towards good health and nutrition.

2. Aim for Zero Food Waste

1.3 billion tons of food that goes to waste each year: we can all help that number go down. Cook and share meals with others or compost leftovers.

3. Donate to Immediate & Long-Term Efforts

When disaster strikes, vulnerable communities around the globe need immediate food and nutrition assistance.

Donate to organizations like World Vision who step in with immediate help, and work to develop long-term solutions.

And while it's true that people around the world are experiencing hunger — it's highly likely some of those people are right in your community, too.

Lookup a food bank in your community, and make a one-time — or even better, recurring! — donation to help support their efforts to end food insecurity right where you live.