Every year on October 16, hundreds of organizations and millions of people around the world work together towards one goal: ending hunger. World Food Day—an annual day of action—commemorates the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. It encourages communities around the world to tackle issues ranging from sustainability and climate change to improving access to healthy, nutritious meals.
At Northerly, we’re growing better food for more people. That means leveraging science and technology to grow high-yield crops, while still being kind to the earth. As part of our sustainability mission, we’re committed to giving back to our local communities.
World Food Day 2019
Since its establishment in 1981, World Food Day has had a theme. This year, building on 2018’s Our Actions Are Our Future, it’s promoting Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger World.
When you think of hunger, it’s easy to assume there’s a lack of food and too many people to feed. But the reality is much more complicated. Worldwide, over 820 million individuals suffer from hunger or struggle with food insecurity. That number has been steadily rising since 2015. Still, as of 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight. Of these, over 650 million were obese. And each year, countries around the world continue to waste one-third of the food that’s grown and produced.
The problem isn’t a lack of calories on the planet. Our planet produces enough food to feed every man, woman, and child. Instead, we’re facing poor accessibility and a lack of education when it comes to healthy eating habits. This year, the FAO is advocating for healthier eating habits and greater equality in accessing food resources.
Who suffers from hunger?
It’s easy to think of hunger as something that primarily affects developing countries. After all, 98% of the world’s hungry live in developing regions. But in reality, one in nine people worldwide go to bed hungry every night. That means men, women, and children in every community struggle with hunger or food insecurity.
Hunger impacts every age and demographic
According to the US Department of Agriculture, 12 million children in the United States live in “food insecure” homes. That means they never know when—or if—their next meal is coming. For 30 million school-aged children, free and reduced-price lunches are the only guaranteed meal they get. During the summer and weekends, these kids rely on organizations dedicated to filling the summer hunger gap.
Millions of senior Americans are also at risk of hunger. As of 2016, over 8.6 million older Americans did not get enough to eat. Barriers related to mobility, technology, and social stigmas often keep seniors from asking for and receiving food aid.
In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of veterans struggling to feed themselves and their families. Despite their sacrifices, many veterans and active-duty military families worry about putting food on the dinner table. A study from Cambridge University drives this point home. More than 25% of veterans reported food insecurity in the past calendar year, with 12% reporting “very low food insecurity.”
The reality of food deserts
But a #ZeroHunger future is about more than access to food. It’s about access to healthy food. According to the USDA, food deserts are regions without access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods. They occur in areas where there are few or no grocery stores, farmer’s markets, or other healthy food providers. These neighborhoods tend to be low-income. Many residents may not have the means to travel to their nearest grocery store.
Instead, they turn to cheap fast food and convenience stores for the majority of their meals. These processed, sugary, and fat-laden foods are contributing to national obesity rates. Improving accessibility means making healthy, whole foods available to everybody. Whether they live in sub-Saharan Africa or Chicago, Illinois.
How you can help
According to the FAO, “A combination of unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles has sent obesity rates soaring, not only in developed countries but also in low-income countries, where hunger and obesity often coexist.” Change starts with a global focus on healthy eating habits and improving access to fresh, whole foods. The good news? Affordable solutions exist to reduce all forms of malnutrition—obesity and hunger alike. But they require global commitment and action.
The simple, everyday choices you make can improve both your health and the health of the planet. You can learn more about your country’s dietary guidelines by visiting the FAO’s comprehensive catalog. Making healthier choices also means considering the earth. We recommend buying sustainably grown foods with short supply chains. Try shopping for seasonal, local foods at your community farmer’s market or co-op.
World Food Day events are happening around the world, from now until mid-November. Check for an event near you on the FAO website. To support a #ZeroHunger future, consider partnering with local organizations that work to feed the future. Most cities have food banks and food pantries that run on volunteer power. You can find one near you through Feeding America’s helpful search tool.
There are countless national and international organizations working towards a #ZeroHunger future. Here at Northerly, we’re climbing For the Grainer Good and feeding the world, one step at a time. We also proudly partner with St. Mary’s Food Bank and Feeding America. Together, we’re providing healthy, nutritious rolled oats for people across North America.
Follow us this month as we raise awareness about sustainability, science, and technology. Together, we can reach #ZeroHunger.