According to a new United Nations report, global rates of hunger and malnutrition are on the rise. The report estimates that in 2019, 690 million people – 8.9 per cent of the world’s population – were undernourished. It predicts that this number will exceed 840 million by 2030.
If you also include the number of people who the UN describes as food insecure, meaning that they have trouble getting access to food, over 2 billion people worldwide suffer. This includes people in wealthy, middle-income and low-income countries.
The report further confirms that women are more likely to face moderate to severe food insecurity than men, and that little progress has been achieved on this front in the past several years.
Overall, its findings warn that eradicating hunger by 2030 – one of the UN’s main “Sustainable Development Goals” – looks increasingly unlikely.
Covid-19 has only made matters worse: the report estimates that the unfolding pandemic and its accompanying economic recession will push an additional 83 million to 132 million people into undernourishment. But based on independent experts to the UN on hunger, access to food and malnutrition it’s clear that the virus is only accelerating existing trends. It is not driving the rising numbers of hungry and food-insecure people. People who live at the current global poverty level of $1.90 per day cannot feasibly secure access to a healthy diet, even under the most optimistic scenarios.
One thing everyone agrees on is that a plant-heavy diet is best for human health and the planet. But if prices for fruits and vegetables are too low, then farmers can’t make a living, and will grow something more lucrative or quit farming altogether. And costs eventually go up for consumers as the supply dwindles. Conversely, if the price is too high, then most people can’t afford healthy food and will resort to eating whatever they can afford – often, cheap processed foods.
As research has shown, today and in the past, people’s access to food is usually determined by how much power is concentrated in the hands of the few. One current example is meatpacking plants. To keep prices low, people work shoulder-to-shoulder processing meat at an incredible speed.