Five myths about global hunger, debunked
If we want to end global hunger, we’ll have to unlearn a few things first. Here are five commonly held beliefs about hunger – debunked and demystified.
1. Myth: There isn’t enough food to feed the world
Reality: For now, we are producing more than enough food. FAO has estimated that the world currently grows enough food to provide each person with 2,700 calories a day – that’s six hundred calories more than what the average adult requires. The problem might not be how much food is produced, but where it’s grown and who has access to it.
2. Myth: There isn’t enough arable land on earth
Reality: There is plenty of land to grow the food we need, if you look at it from a global perspective. But much of the earth’s arable land is not being used to grow food. Population growth is causing greater urbanization and sprawl that encroaches on agricultural land. Large-scale land acquisitions, or “land grabs,” by corporations have displaced local people who depend on the land for their survival. In some places, intensive agricultural practices have degraded the land and made it less productive. Since land to grow food is not infinite, it has to be managed with care.
3. Myth: There are too many people to feed
Reality: We’re eating all the wrong things. Over the past 40 years around the globe there has been a rapid dietary transition away from things like roots, tubers, pulses, fruits and vegetables towards fast and junk foods and, in particular, meat. We all eat too much meat. It takes 100 times more water to produce a pound of meat than it does to produce a pound of wheat. Livestock systems take up 45 percent of the globe’s surface. On top of that, livestock produce 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Meat and dairy can be important sources of protein, but on average we’re eating more of this protein than we need.
4. Myth: Ending hunger is just a matter of food quantity
Reality: The quantity of calories counts, but so does food quality and variety.Malnutrition is one of the worst effects of hunger. Hungry people do not consume nearly enough vital micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). We all need a balanced and nutritious diet – not just a bowl of rice every day.
5. Myth: Hungry people only live in Africa
Reality: You may tend to associate hunger with an image of starving African children. True, hunger does affect a tragically high number of people in African countries, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, but is also affects more than 304 million people in South Asia, 167 million in East Asia and 49 million in Latin America. There are cases of hunger in Europe and North America, too. To address world hunger, we need to recognize it as a worldwide phenomenon.
These aren’t the only hunger myths. We’ll post five more next week. If you know of other commonly held, but untrue beliefs about hunger, debunk them on our Facebook and Twitter.