Food shortages worldwide: where are they and how you can help

Vivacqua, Gabriela. “South Sudan IPC”. WFP. February2019.
Cook and culture

Written by cookandculture | Edited By: Aditi Khandelwal

A shocking 11% of the world’s population is hungry, according to Do This statistic plays out to roughly 805 million people across the globe that go to bed without a sufficient calorie intake. To make matters even worse, enough food is produced in the world to feed the entire population. Then how is it that there is insufficiency? 

Two words- food shortages.

The UN defines a food shortage as an occurrence that happens “when food supplies within a bounded region do not provide the energy and nutrients needed by that region’s population.” Based on this definition, a food shortage can occur in two different ways. The first way is when not enough food is produced in a certain area, which can result from crop failure due to drought, pests, or too much moisture. The second way is from the uneven distribution of food worldwide. According to Mission 2014: Feeding the World, “food is unevenly distributed globally due to the lack of markets, the inadequacy of transportation to markets, and the inability to afford the costs of production and consumption.”


Where are food shortages? 

Worldwide, food shortages often occur in developing countries where poverty is more prevalent, because these citizens have a harder time paying for their food, or equipment to grow their own food. The five countries with the highest rate of food shortages are as follows:

  1. Chad

According to Concern Worldwide, Chad is one of the only countries where more than 1 in 10 children dies before their fifth birthday, this is largely due to starvation. 

2. Timor-Leste 

One third of the total population of this southeast Asian country suffers from a lack of food. 

3. Madagascar 

Madagascar has had a troubling increase in undernourishment rates, from 30% in 2009-11 to nearly 42% in 2017-19, according to Concern Worldwide.

4. Haiti 

According to The World Food Program, in Haiti more than one in three people need urgent food assistance which amounts to nearly 3.7 million people nationwide. 

5. Mozambique

64% of the population of the East African country of Mozambique does not have access to enough food daily, says the UN World Food Program.

However, just because food shortages are more prevalent in developing countries, it does not mean that they cannot happen in developed countries, such as the United States. According to the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, an astounding “15% of families in the United States report they have trouble accessing food.” The people who suffer the most from lack of food in the country are the eldery, low income households, and those who have difficulty going out to purchase and or make food for themselves.

The Link Between Food Shortages and Sustainability 


Have you heard of the sustainable development goals? The United Nations created the 17 sustainable development goals back in 2015, with the overarching goal of “providing a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future,” by the year 2030 (United Nations). Goal number two of seventeen is zero hunger. The official wording of the UN for this goal is: “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” (United Nations). So how does zero hunger link to overall sustainability? 

To examine this link, first we need to look at the definition of sustainability. Sustainability has many definitions, but the most common one is from the Brundtland Report, which reads “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In order to feed our current population and the inevitably growing population of the future, we must shift to sustainable food production. According to Euific, sustainable food production entails “a method of production using processes and systems that are non-polluting, conserve non-renewable energy and natural resources, are economically efficient, are safe for workers, communities and consumers, and do not compromise the needs of future generations.” Check out this article regarding sustainable food production and sustainable diets.

COVID-19 and Food Shortages

COVID Food Shortage

It has been 5 years since the United Nations Sustainable Development goals have been put into action. Unfortunately, 2020 made the path to zero hunger even more difficult. According to initial predictions, “the pandemic and its economic fallout could double the number of people facing acute food crises”, says Concern Worldwide. Furthermore, many developing countries, some who are the most vulnerable to food shortages, were hit with an outbreak of locusts, a swarming bug similar to a grasshopper.  Locusts are huge eaters, and consume most of the green vegetation wherever a swarm settles, leaving crops decimated and people hungry. Now more than ever, we must take action to ensure that every person has access to food, as 2020 left even more people worldwide hungry.

So, how do we achieve sustainable food prediction in order to ensure every person on our planet has food? According to Frontiers in Sustainable Food Solutions, “sustainable food security will require: (a) availability of food or sufficient food production, (b) access to food and ability to purchase food, (c) sufficiency in terms of nutrition including energy, proteins and micronutrients as well as safety, and (d) the stability and foreseeability of these conditions.” While this is a hefty task, there are many things YOU can help do to combat this crisis.

Eight Tips for how you can help combat food shortages 

Hands of a young homeless man
  1. Promote sustainable agriculture 

Starting off the list of tips with a relatively easy one: supporting sustainable agriculture. Agriculture often places significant pressure on natural resources and the environment. The difference between regular and sustainable agriculture is that sustainable agricultural practices are intended to protect the environment, expand the Earth’s natural resource base, and maintain and improve soil fertility (United States Department of Agriculture). There are four main sustainable agriculture practices, these include:

  • Soil enrichment 

Soil Enrichment creates a healthier root system which is beneficial as it allows crops to better undergo stress. This is done by using a “fertilizer catalyst that makes fertilizer more efficient by conditioning the soil to allow more nutrients into the grass and improve grass health,” according to LawnDoctor.

  • Crop rotation

According to Rodale Institute, “Crop rotation is the practice of planting different crops sequentially on the same plot of land to improve soil health, optimize nutrients in the soil, and combat pest and weed pressure.”

  • Cover crops

Cover crops are plants that are planted to cover the soil rather than for the purpose of being harvested. “Cover crops manage soil erosion, soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife in an agroecosystem—an ecological system managed and shaped by humans,” says Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation.

  • Natural Pest Hunters 

Another way to improve the production of crop production and quality is to use natural pest hunters. Many birds and animals are natural predators of pests that plague and destroy the crops. Sustainable agriculture “ensures the habitation of these birds and animals on the farms, thereby keeping the number of pests in check,” certifies Farm Fresh.

So, how can you promote sustainable agriculture? 

  • Choose regionally grown and made products, that originate in your own bio-region. They use less fuel to be transported and come straight from a source in your watershed.
  • Buy as local as you can from area farmers whenever possible and at restaurants that feature local-grown foods. Consider joining a  CSA – community supported agriculture – program that ensures local food crops and field systems stay in production.
  • Eat more organic fruits and vegetables – their production is much better for the environment, they create fresh air, do not pollute the water and soil, generate millions of tons less greenhouse gases than animal products, and are a delicious, flavorful, healthy source of vitamins and minerals. They also sequester more carbon in the soil than conventionally farmed products.


2. Education

Tip number two is to educate people about food shortages. Food shortages are not a new issue, but a problem the world has been facing for a very long time. Unfortunately, it is very easy to turn a blind eye to this problem. I challenge you to have a conversation with your friends and family about food shortages and ways you can contribute to ending hunger worldwide. Share this article with friends, parents, co-workers, siblings, cousins- everyone needs to get educated and get involved.

3. Minimize food waste 

All the food that you throw away could have been a meal to someone else who is hungry. To help stop food shortages, minimize your food waste. Only buy what you consume before the food goes bad, save your leftovers, and only make as much as you need.

4. Support charities whose goal is to eradicate hunger 

There are many charities worldwide whose goal is to end hunger and eliminate food shortages. 5 of which include: 

Consider donating to one of these charities to help this cause. 

5. Donate to your local food bank or food pantry 

Food Banks

Kohut, Meridith. “The Houston Food Bank”. TIME. November2020.

A food bank is a non-profit, charitable organization that distributes food to those who have difficulty purchasing enough to avoid hunger. A food pantry is a distribution center where hungry families can receive food. “Supplied with food from a food bank, pantries feed hundreds of people per week”, says Feeding America. Donating money or canned food items is a great way to do your part in helping end the hunger crisis worldwide. 

6. Start a food drive 

Another great way to help is to start your own food drive! Food drives help food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens collect food donations to keep their shelves stocked. Soups, nut butters, pasta and pasta sauce, cereals, and beans are the best things to donate to a food drive. Feeding America encourages that “Individuals, schools, community organizations, and businesses can all host food drives on behalf of their local food banks.”

7. Volunteer at organizations whose goal is to reduce food shortages 

Volunteer at organizations involved in packing, distributing, and sorting food which works towards  goals  aimed at reducing food shortages. One organization you can volunteer at, and my favorite place to volunteer, is Feed My Starving Children. FMC is a non-profit organization that coordinates the packaging and distribution of food to people in developing nations. At the end of each volunteering shift, the workers tell you how much food you packed and how many people that can feed for a year!

8. Write your officials about food policies 

Legislation is involved with every step of how food gets from the farm to your fork, says Spoon University. Food assistance programs, dietary guidelines, and sustainability are all the result of legislation.  Exercise your rights and contact your elected officials about food issues important to you, as in order to make positive legislation happen, our officials need to hear from us to learn what we want and care about. Check out this link as to how to contact your local, federal, and state elected officials. 

Legislation is involved with every step of how food gets from the farm to your fork, says Spoon University. Food assistance programs, dietary guidelines, and sustainability are all the result of legislation.  Exercise your rights and contact your elected officials about food issues important to you, as in order to make positive legislation happen, our officials need to hear from us to learn what we want and care about. Check out this link as to how to contact your local, federal, and state elected officials. 

Download our Special Edition Magazine to know more about how you can help Eliminate Hunger and Food Insecurity at their Roots!

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