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Our food system is facing a reckoning. The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed decades of progress on hunger, malnutrition and food security. If recent trends continue, nearly 10% of the global population – over 840 million people – will be affected by hunger by 2030. But eliminating hunger alone will not ensure that everyone has access to sufficient nutritious food.
Current estimates are that nearly 690 million people are hungry, or 8.9 percent of the world population – up by 10 million people in one year and by nearly 60 million in five years.
In 2019, close to 750 million – or nearly one in ten people in the world – were exposed to severe levels of food insecurity.
If recent trends continue, the number of people affected by hunger will surpass 840 million by 2030, or 9.8 percent of the global population.
An estimated 2 billion people in the world did not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food in 2019.
144 million children under age 5 were affected by stunting in 2019.
In 2019, 6.9 per cent (or 47 million) children under 5 were affected by wasting, or acute undernutrition, a condition caused by limited nutrient intake and infection.
Food Insecurity & Nutrition Insecurity
When someone experiences food insecurity, they are experiencing a lack of regular and safe access to enough food for normal growth and development, and an active and healthy life. Food insecurity can lead to various forms of malnutrition – from nutrient deficiency to diet related diseases like obesity and diabetes – and can have serious consequences on overall health and well-being.
Global food insecurity is on the rise. An estimated 25.9% of the global population – 2 billion people – were affected by moderate or severe food insecurity in 2019 while almost 1 in 10 people around the world experienced severe food insecurity, being forced to go a day or more without any food at all. Across the board, numbers are expected to increase as a result of COVID19.
Nutrition Insecurity is the lack of consistent access to a wide and diverse range of healthful, nourishing foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, that promote well-being and provide essential nutrients to meet daily dietary needs.
While the concept of food security has been described as safe, steady and affordable access to nutritious foods; in reality, the ‘nutritious’ part has been overlooked or lost in national policies and solutions – prioritizing quantity over quality for far too long. Shifting to the term Nutrition Security lets us sharpen the focus to make way for solutions that “nourish people, instead of filling them with food but leaving them hungry.” The Healthy Living Coalition is fighting to end nutrition insecurity by improving access to nutritious foods in underserved communities.
Nutrition Insecurity is strongly linked to poverty and has deep structural roots in social and economic disparities. These systemic inequities; like inadequate access to health services, availability of healthier options in the community, distance from a supermarket, individual level resources that affect accessibility like transportation or income, are all underlying contributors that can cause someone to experience nutrition insecurity.
In every global region, healthy diets are unaffordable for many people. The most conservative estimate shows that more than 3 billion people around the world cannot afford a healthy diet. Healthy diets are estimated to cost, on average, 60% more than diets that only meet minimum nutrient requirements, and they are almost 5x more expensive than diets that meet your minimum dietary energy (calorie) needs.
Malnutrition and Hunger are often used interchangeably but they mean very different things. Hunger is the painful physical sensation that happens when you don’t consume enough calories or dietary energy from food. Whereas malnutrition refers to any deficiency, excess or imbalance in a person’s intake of dietary energy or nutrients. You can be hungry without experiencing malnutrition or nutrition insecurity, and you can experience nutrition insecurity or malnutrition without being hungry.
According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition covers two broad groups of conditions: 1. undernutrition – stunting, wasting, underweight and micronutrient deficiencies; and 2. Overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Hunger and food insecurity tend to go hand in hand with malnutrition, but there is no guarantee that having access to more food will automatically prevent malnutrition.
The U.S. Government offers a variety of federal nutrition programs that help supply or supplement food for people who in need. Perhaps the most well-known of these programs is SNAP, (formerly food stamps), which stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and provides low-income families with additional income to purchase nutritious foods. We also recommend getting in touch with national or local non-profit organizations, like our partners Feeding America and Why Hunger, who can help you find and access local resources like community food programs, food pantries and more.
Food Systems & Food Justice
Food Systems embrace a range of actors involved in the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption, and disposal (loss or waste) of food products that originate from agriculture, livestock, forestry, fisheries, and food industries, and the broader economic, societal, and natural environments in which they exist. Production includes: farming communities, pre-production actors such as input industries producing fertilizers or seeds. Range of actors includes: science, technology, data, innovation actors, public and private quality and safety control organizations.
Food Justice takes a holistic, rights based view of the food system and considers socio-economic pressures, structural barriers and inequities that prevent access to quality nutrition. As socio-economic disparities are experienced more often by minority groups, we tend to see this manifest in unequal health outcomes in underserved communities. On the heels of nutrition security, food justice takes our advocacy work a step further to support communities in their right to grow, sell and eat nutritious, fresh, affordable, locally produced and culturally appropriate food. It sees healthy food as a human right, and calls for an end to the systemic inequalities (including racism, poverty, gender inequity, geographic disparities) that block people from exercising that right.
Food touches every part of our society and our lives, but there are hidden costs associated with every dietary choice we make. Having a better understanding of these costs, or the True Cost of Food, makes it easier to see that how, what and where we consume food has an impact on the future of people and planet.
What are the UN SDGs?
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, are the world’s shared plan to end extreme poverty, reduce inequalities and protect the planet by 2030.
We are far behind schedule in achieving the SDGs. Based on current trends, the Global Goals won’t be met until 2082 and even worse, the COVID-19 pandemic might set that date back another decade.
The Healthy Living Coalition will drive progress under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on SDG-2: Zero Hunger
Why SDG 2?
Sustainable Development Goal 2, Zero Hunger, aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
The world is not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030, and if recent trends continue, the number of people affected by hunger would surpass 840 million by 2030. The population facing food insecurity is expected to double as a result of the pandemic, with rates on the rise in the poorest and wealthiest countries alike.
Hunger and Malnutrition cut across all 17 SDGs and have the potential to create wide-ranging positive change. The Global Goals cannot be achieved with a food system that does not promote equal access to nutritious food, support for all workers along the supply chain and sustainable agriculture practices. Without tackling hunger and malnutrition first, we cannot create a better and more sustainable world for people and the planet.
Nutrition and the Gender Gap
Addressing gender injustice is a fundamental prerequisite for food systems transformation. Globally and in every region, the prevalence of food insecurity is slightly higher in women than in men and more often than not, the face of malnutrition is female . This is a result of biological, economic, social and cultural reasons. For example, in many households in developing countries, women do not have a say in how food and other resources are distributed among household members, including themselves and children.
The gender gap in food insecurity is larger among impoverished and less-educated segments of the population, but even when women have the same income and education levels as men, it is still more difficult for them to access food than their male counterparts.
Food and Climate
The choices people make around food, and how that food is produced, not only affect our health but also have a huge impact on the environment and climate change progress. Not all healthy diets are climate-friendly and not all diets designed for environmental sustainability are always healthy. The environmental consequences of unbalanced and unhealthy diets translate into real monetary costs. Our current dietary patterns have social costs like greenhouse gas emissions that are estimated at USD $1.7 trillion per year by 2030. On the other hand, the adoption of healthy diets is projected to result in a reduction of up to 41–74% in the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions within the same time period.
Food Insecurity and Racial Equity
Food insecurity can be experienced by people of any color or ethnicity, but long-standing racial and economic disparities make some groups more vulnerable than others. In the US, African American households are 2x more likely to face hunger than white, non-Hispanic households. Many BIPOC groups are disproportionately affected by poor food access, leading to a higher risk of hunger and all forms of malnutrition, from nutrient deficiency to diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes.
Good Food for All
What is Good Food? Good food is a foundation for everything, it gives us the energy we need to fight for a better future for everyone, everywhere. Along with our friends at The SDG2 Advocacy Hub, we hope to create a better world with good food, for all.
The SDG2 Advocacy Hub is leading the Good Food for All Campaign and acts as a central resource for NGOs, agricultural networks, nutritionists, campaigners, civil society, the private sector and UN agencies to coordinate advocacy efforts and achieve SDG-2 by 2030.
Healthy food that is safe to consume, allows us to reach our fullest potential, to grow, to prosper and to live healthy lives and thrive.
Billions of people around the world don’t have an option to choose good food. It may not be available, affordable, or accessible. It’s time to level the playing field with food systems that reach everyone with the healthy food they need.
Only if we are healthy and strong can we fight injustice and create a better and more equitable world for all. To be at our best we must have good food, first.
2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit
The United Nations Food Systems Summit will take place in September 2021 during the United Nations General Assembly. The Summit will connect issues of climate, social and economic issues, environment and nutrition, and all SDGs as they relate to our global “food systems” – the ways in which we produce, process and consume food. The HLC is actively driving progress under Action Tracks 1, 2 and 4.
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