Regardless of age, gender, or country of origin, we all need food to survive. Yet, globally, 820 million people are going hungry. In the face of a rapidly changing climate, it is vital that everybody is engaged in reducing food waste and creating a system in which food is distributed equally.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a person who is food insecure “[lacks] regular access to enough, safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life.”
Perhaps this definition connotes the harrowing 1984 image of Birhan Woldu, the young ‘face of Live Aid’, or the more recent appeals for aid in Yemen, where two million children are malnourished. Live Aid has been labeled by some as misguided and even patronizing. But its sentiment echoes strongly today: we must do more to “feed the world”.
According to UNICEF, across the globe, at least 15% of families including under-15s do not have enough money to buy food. The consequences for young people are diverse and long-term, from reliance on initiatives such as food banks or ’Happy Fridges’ to a higher likelihood of chronic illnesses in later life.
With the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 2) – zero hunger by 2030 – way out of reach, apocalyptic sounding ‘food wars’ may become a reality in our lifetimes. Yet, FAO suggests we already produce enough food for 10 billion people... so why are people still starving, and how can we make food security universal?
Getting rid of food waste
Perhaps the first step is redistribution and reducing waste: shockingly, about 30% of food produced is never actually eaten and this figure has risen under COVID-19 with falling business demands and crumbling supply chains.
The impacts of food waste go beyond overflowing bins. Between 2010 and 2016, food waste generated 10% of human-made gas emissions. As 85% of waste in the US is created ’downstream’ by consumer-facing businesses and households, patterns of consumption need to be re-shaped – buying food sourced as locally as possible and in only the required quantities has never been more important.
Beyond the individual level, world leaders must examine wherein the food system waste occurs and how best to address it, both globally and in national contexts. For example, 40% of food in developing countries goes to waste before reaching markets due to poor infrastructure and refrigeration.
So we see how food distribution is shaped by wider economic development processes, of which projects funding sustainable energy and travel must play an important part.
Other steps towards food security may include shifting subsidies towards crops such as millet rather than maize and promoting good farming practices. However, the removal of physical barriers to food security is dwarfed by the challenge of raising incomes so the poorest can afford to access food and the most sustainable way to achieve this remains a debate in itself.
No young person should grow up affected by food insecurity. As climate change has an increasing impact on agriculture, meeting SDG 2 will require creative responses from everyone in all aspects of the global food system, from improvements in production efficiency to more sustainable consumption.
Food insecurity [Retrieved from https://www.iied.org/food-insecurity-appetite-for-change on 28th, October 2020]
Sustainable development goal- Zero hunger by 2030 [Retrieved from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/hunger/ on 28th, October 2020]