Contributes food insecurity to obesity

World Food Day on October 16th

Since 1979 World Food Day - also known as World Hunger Day - has been a reminder that many millions of people around the world do not have enough to eat. The date marks the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on October 16, 1945. The task of this specialized UN agency is to secure food for all people on earth.

World Food Day is primarily intended to warn people in industrialized countries to act in solidarity in order to overcome the economic, social and political causes of hunger and malnutrition. Because in order to create the necessary conditions for regional, national and global food security, everyone has to make a contribution.

Food insecurity is more than hunger

Food insecurity means that people do not have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to stay healthy. This affects not only the health, but also the social and economic situation of individuals and entire communities. Food insecurity is often linked to poverty, and the lack of essential nutrients means that those affected are so limited in their physical and mental performance that poverty increases - a vicious circle. People who suffer from malnutrition are not necessarily underweight, but can also be affected by overweight and obesity. One reason: unhealthy, high-calorie and at the same time nutrient-poor food is usually the cheapest.

In total, over 2 billion people suffer from so-called “hidden hunger” - a type of malnutrition in which too few minerals and vitamins are absorbed in order to develop optimally mentally and physically. And another 1.4 billion people are overweight or obese due to poor nutrition, not only in the rich countries of the western world, but increasingly also in developing and emerging countries.

Food supply of the future

According to estimates by the FAO, the available food could feed all people even with a world population of more than 9 billion - if the distribution were fair and if agricultural production were to increase by more than 70 percent by 2050. In the last few decades, modern, highly developed agriculture in industrialized countries has played a major role in the growth in food production. However, the potential of high-performance varieties and the precise use of pesticides, fertilizers and animal feed has largely been exhausted and is no longer justifiable in terms of sustainability. A future-oriented way of securing world food supply, on the other hand, is to strengthen small-scale family businesses. They produce around 80 percent of the world's food, but have so far not been productive enough and are most affected by poverty and the consequences of climate change.

Strengthening smallholder structures

Above all in the Global South, it is important to find ways for ecologically sustainable, regional agriculture so that smallholder farms can move away from pure self-sufficiency to additional production for the market. This not only reduces poverty in rural regions, but also more and more diverse foods are coming onto the market - an important step towards global food security. This path can be followed, for example, with improved methods for cultivation and irrigation, through prevention of erosion, adapted seeds as well as pesticides and fertilizers. Help for self-help is the motto here, according to which Welthungerhilfe, for example, has always acted, supplemented by financial aid and cooperation for marketing.

Healthy nutrition for people and the planet

In order to secure food for the growing world population and at the same time not to exceed the ecological limits of the earth, sustainable cultivation methods that preserve clean water, fertile soils and biodiversity in the long term are indispensable. But each and every one of us can also contribute to fighting hunger and malnutrition in the world: Conscious consumption, avoiding food waste and a menu that contains less meat and animal products but a lot of plant-based foods can make a significant contribution to that a healthy and environmentally friendly diet is possible for all people on earth. The “Planetary Health Diet”, developed by 37 international scientists, including climate researchers and nutritionists, provides an example of how this could work. The result of the joint study is a plant-based diet that could protect the health of people and the planet alike, as it would provide sufficient nutrients for the entire world population and the recommended amounts of food could be produced within the planetary limits. However, this would require a global revolution in agriculture. Not easy, but theoretically feasible. Without decisive action, sustainability goal no. 2 of the 2030 Agenda “End hunger, achieve food security and better nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” cannot be met.