UN Calls for Reimagined Food Systems

12 Jul 2022
Climate change, conflict, economic shocks and growing inequalities are putting pressure on our food system's capacity to produce and distribute nutritious food. The 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report (SOFI) under the theme "Repurposing food and agricutltural polciies to make healthy diets more affordable", examines the state of global food security and nutrition as it relates specifically to the rampant increases in prices and accessibility of healthy diets. 

One of the key findings of the report is that up to 828 million people faced chronic, perisistent hunger in 2021. This is 150 million more people living with hunger than in 2019, and 46 million more than in 2020. Africa is bearing the brunt of this crisis - 20.2% of the population was facing hunger in 2021, compared to 9.1 percent in Asia, 8.6 percent in Latin America and the Carribean, 5.8 percent in Oceania and less than 2.5 percent in Northern America and Europe. 

Implications of consumer food price inflation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate food insecurity. Moreover, the conflict in Ukraine, and the related food security challenges, could cause an additional 13 million people to live with hunger in 2022 and up to 19 million more people by 2023. 
Additional Findings of the 2021 SOFI Report

  • In 2021, an estimated 29.3% of the global population - 2.3 billion people were moderately or severely food insecure and 11.7 percent (923.7 million people) faced severe food insecurity. 
  • The gender gap in food insecurity is widening. In 2021, 31.9% of women in the world were moderately or severly food insecure compared to 27.6% of men. 
  • Globally in 2020, an estimated 22% of children under five years of age were stunted, 6.7% were wasted, and 5.7% were overweight. 
  • Projections are that nearly 670 million people will still be facing hunger in 2030 - 8% of the worlds population. This is the same as in 2015 when the 2030 Agenda was launched. 

While the world has the capacity to feed everyone, millions of people around the world are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition because of the high cost of healthy diets. While the causes of this high cost vary by context, the report notes that government support for agricultural production largely concentrates on rice, sugar and meats of various types, while fruits and vegetables are less supported overall, or even penalised in some countries. 

The report issues guidance about how food and agricultural policy could be leveraged to reduce the cost of nutritious foods and suggestions for transforming the agrifood system.  A key recommendation is for governments to rethink the allocation of existing public budgets to make nutritious foods affordable and increase the availability of healthy diets for everyone. 

While we agree, The Hunger Project also believes that we must invest in strengthening local food systems to sustainably end global hunger. 

"It's time to examine our food and agriculture policies, to better ensure healthy, nutritious food for all. The recommendations from the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report, released today are a good start but we must be bolder and focus locally. Every country, rich or poor, needs to take action  to strengthen local food systems. Indigenous crops and tradtional farming methods, while usually less productive, have evolved over hundreds of years and are more resilient to climate shocks, and are often grown more in harmony with nature. 

Tim Prewitt, THP Global President and CEO

One of the ways we can end hunger and malnutrition is by supporting smallholder farmers. In developing countries, smallholder farmers make up 40-85% of food producers in the world. It is important to strengthen their local markets for hardier and climate resilient crops with increased nutritional value and decrease their reliance on imported agro-inputs, such as seeds and fertilisers. 

Sustainable food system strategies include enhanced local biodiversity, management of natural resources, better access to markets for farmers, inclusive global and local food value chains, social sustainability and empowerment of women, consumers and small-holder farmers. 

Our work across Africa, South Asia and Latin America is laying the foundation for the sustainable transformation of local food systems. With communities, we are building a path to self-reliance by leveraging partnerships that unite many actors and their specialised knowledge to drive community-led development. Through our programming, community leaders learn sustainable farming practices, food processing and storage techniques, together with distribution of their produce to promote improved nutrition outcomes and uptake. 

While the SOFI report indicates that efforts to eradicate hunger, food insecurity and malnutirtion in all of its manifestations are failing, this is a challenge we can overcome. By transforming our food system policies and resources we can reduce chronic hunger globally, and contribute to the health of our planet. These efforts can only be achieved through the engagement of communities, civic societies, private sector and governments to prevent and manage conflicts to balance out unequal powers within agrifood systems. 

The 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report was published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

Photo: Teshome form Ethiopia, 2019 by Johannes Odé for The Hunger Project