When someone says the word “hunger” what is it that you think of? Do you picture a refugee camp in a third world country? A homeless shelter? The donation bin at your local supermarket during the holiday season? All of these images probably conjured up specific scenarios and keywords in your mind about who is hungry and why. But the stereotypes of hunger that these images portray lead most to believe that hunger is a small problem, only affects those in the lower income bracket, and occurs mostly in third world countries. Some of these stereotypes are half true, but they can lead to dangerous misconceptions that in the end only help to further spread hunger.
To begin clearing up some of those misconceptions, it is important to realize that in our world today, 1 in 9 people are classified as hungry. That equates to nearly 800 million people around the world who are malnourished, 98% of whom live in developing countries. In America, that number is reduced to nearly 50 million, or 15% of our population. As the leading health risk and cause of death facing the world today, even greater than AIDs, malaria, and tuberculosis combined, hunger, along with malnutrition, is a disease that contributes to nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under the age of five.
In America, 15.5 million of the nearly 50 million that are hungry are children. Around the world in developing countries, 1 in 6 children are born underweight. These children are already at a nutritional disadvantage because their mothers, 50% of whom did not receive proper maternal care and nutrition, could not give birth to healthy babies. The developmental affects that malnutrition has on children, particularly infants, is staggering. From birth, malnourished babies are at a much greater risk for stunted growth, greater nutrient deficiencies, having a greater chance of contracting life-threatening diseases such as malaria and the measles due to compromised immune systems, and compromised mental development. Malnourished children consistently perform at lower levels than their peers in school, and more often experience depression and anxiety.
Worldwide, hunger contributes significantly to poverty, food waste, and social and economic conflict. To end hunger, we also need to address the root causes of poverty in particular, as well as food waste, and food policy. So how is it that hunger is so prevalent? What determines where, when, and how it becomes widespread? Is the problem lack of food to begin with or poor distribution of food? In the next part of The First Course / Hunger, Food Insecurity, and Poverty we will address some of the reasons why hunger and poverty are so widespread.
To see more statistics on hunger, food insecurity, poverty, food waste, and more head over to Learn Links to find more resources.
written by Gabrielle Miller