Ultimately, feeding the planet is an issue of eliminating hunger. However, while hunger is widely recognized as a global problem, the term is quite hard to define. Establishing a definition is therefore a critical component of evaluating the success of our mission.

Classifying the hunger of a country based solely on its total amount of food only accounts for part of the issue of hunger within that country. Due to unequal distribution of food, countries like Brazil and China have an overabundance of food per citizen yet still experience high rates of undernourishment (Bassett & Winter-Nelson, 2010).  Individuals are classified as undernourished if they do not receive adequate energy for daily functioning from food in terms of calories per day (United Nations World Food Programme). It is also very possible for a nation that has reached food security [1] based on calorie count to still experience malnourishment throughout its population. Malnourishment describes the condition where an individual does not receive all of their required nutrients from their diet (United Nations World Food Programme). In other words, while a country may be able to provide an adequate amount of food to its citizens on a basis of raw calories, that food does not necessarily contain all of the proper nutrients required to sustain a healthy population. We have investigated several approaches to ameliorating undernourishment.

The UN has developed a more telling metric of the state of hunger in a country called the “prevalence of undernourishment,” which is a useful metric for identifying regions where hunger is an issue. This measurement gives the percentage of a country’s population that is undernourished, whether through lack of food, access to food, or essential nutrients within food. The prevalence of undernourishment can also be used to show how the percentage of a population that is undernourished can change in relation to the baseline that is chosen for the minimum daily calorie intake required by a person.

However, the prevalence of undernourishment still does not capture every aspect of the issue of hunger. For instance, the prevalence of undernourishment statistic does not examine the complexities of hunger within a household itself, it merely looks at the average statistics for the household as a whole over the course of the year. In most cases, women are more likely to be undernourished than men, and children are more likely to be undernourished than adults (Bassett & Winter-Nelson, 2010). In some cultures, a mother is even expected to “absorb” the immediate shock of food insecurity by going without food (Bassett & Winter-Nelson, 2010). Thus, the household as a whole appears not to be hungry while hunger still exists within. This metric also does not take into account seasonal hunger that many subsistence farmers experience. Even with proper planning, many farmers find themselves hungry in the time preceding harvest. In fact, approximately 50% of individuals experiencing food insecurity are small-scale farmers (Bacon et al., 2014).

Prevalence of undernourishment is a useful metric to identify and classify regions that are most impacted by hunger. Categorization of a region as undernourished will indicate that the region is a candidate for more targeted and issue specific information gathering. For instance, these regions will highlight underserved populations. Solutions can range from implementing farmers cooperatives and providing food aid to improving storage infrastructure and techniques. Examining the geographic distribution of over and undernourished regions can also reveal the transportation infrastructure that will prove most beneficial for the impacted regions.

[1] For a nation to be food secure, it must provide physical and economic access to adequate food and nutrients in order to sustain a healthy population (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2003).

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Works Cited

Bacon, C. M., & Sundstrom, W. A., & Gomez, M. E. F., & Mendez, V. E., & Santos, R., & Goldoftas, B., & Dougherty, I. (2014) Explaining the ‘hungry farmer paradox’: Smallholders and fair trade cooperatives navigate seasonality and change in Nicaragua’s corn and coffee markets. Global Environmental Change, 25. Retrieved from http://www.uvm.edu/~agroecol/BaconCMEtAl_ExplainingHungryFarmerParadosCoffeeNica_14.pdf

Bassett, T., & Winter-Nelson, A. (2010). Atlas of World Hunger. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.

Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (2003). Trade Reforms and Food Security. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/3/a-y4671e.pdf

United Nations World Food Programme (n.d). Hunger Glossary. Retrieved from https://www.wfp.org/hunger/glossary