What we mean when we talk about hunger
Hunger is the uncomfortable experience of not having enough food to eat. We say people are hungry when they are deprived of food or experiencing famine. Hungry people worry about where their next meal will come from. If you want to be more knowledgeable about hunger, master these additional terms:
Chronic hunger is a long-term and persistent lack of enough food to meet the body’s energy needs. It affects 870 million people worldwide.
Famine is a widespread food shortage in a certain region or for a certain group of people, which causes a sharp rise in deaths in areas where it occurs.
Starvation is the result of a severe or total lack of food. It can lead to death.
Malnutrition occurs in people who have an inadequate or unbalanced diet, or when the body cannot absorb the nutrients from food. People who take in too little food can suffer from malnutrition, but also those who consume too much can be malnourished. Malnutrition also occurs if the food eaten is largely nutritionally inadequate. Parasites and diseases can contribute to malnutrition, too.
Undernutrition occurs when people don’t consume enough food to match their energy requirements, when their diet is deficient in one or more nutrients, or when they are unable to absorb the nutrients in food because of things like infectious diseases. Pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to undernutrition because their bodies need extra nutrition during critical periods of growth. Undernutrition can lead to:
(a) being underweight for one’s age,
(b) stunting (being too short for one’s age),
(c) wasting (being dangerously thin for one’s height), and
(d) micronutrient deficiency (lacking vitamins and minerals).
Food insecurity means that people lack reliable access to nutritious and safe food, for different reasons. Food might be physically unavailable, people may be unable to afford to buy food, or in rural areas people may lack the knowledge, tools or other essentials to grow adequate food.
For more information and technical definitions, visit FAO’s Hunger Portal: www.fao.org/hunger/en