Deep dive: Food systems reform urgency felt as global hunger rises

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare just how broken the global food system is, with millions going hungry despite the world producing enough food to feed them all. Even before people around the globe lost their jobs en masse and food pantry lines stretched longer and longer, 2021 was always meant to be a year of reform.

First conceived in 2019, the United Nations Food Systems Summit was intended to bring together stakeholders in issues such as agriculture, nutrition, climate change, sustainability, and trade — all to galvanize change in how the world plants, harvests, transports, markets, and consumes food.

Now, global hunger trends show that change is needed more than ever. The worst predictions about pandemic-era hunger levels came to unfortunate fruition, with around 118 million more people facing hunger last year than in 2019. I dive into the specifics below, but spoiler alert: The numbers are not good. Urgent action is needed, food systems advocates say, if hunger is to be eliminated and the rest of the Sustainable Development Goals achieved by 2030.

The Food Systems Summit is meant to be the start of that action. After a three-day “presummit” in July in Rome, which we covered in depth, the main event is set to take place on Sept. 23, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

The 2021 State of Food Insecurity in the World acknowledges that the past four years of hunger data present a “humbling reality.” The world is not on its way to meeting the SDGs, nor eliminating hunger. Nearly 12% of the global population faced severe food insecurity in 2020.

Other sobering highlights:

Between 720 million and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020.

The high cost of healthy diets and high levels of poverty and income inequality keep healthy diets out of reach for around 3 billion people.

Of children under 5 years of age, 149.2 million were affected by stunting, while 45.4 million were affected by wasting, and 38.9 million were affected by overweight.

More than half of the world’s undernourished — 418 million — are found in Asia, and more than one-third — 282 million — in Africa.Attachments area

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