“There are starving children in Africa.”
That was the phrase I’d hear as a child if I didn’t want to finish a meal. The lesson I suppose being to be grateful for what you’ve got. It speaks to a deeper truth, though. While our personal food wastage, the level of which can sometimes be staggering, is a symptom of the problem, the root cause is an inequality of global food supply. Studies by the World Bank have shown there is enough food being produced worldwide to support a global population, and even create up to a 50% surplus if you look at the total yields before food storage issues and crop spoilage. Why then do one in eight people on this planet live their lives malnourished?
On May 28th we celebrated World Hunger Day. Celebrated? Poor word choice. Acknowledged? Highlighted? Called attention to the inequality of global food supply and raised awareness of the ongoing issue of global hunger? Better.
So what to do about this inequality? In the United States, less than one percent of the foreign aid budget is spent on improving nutrition. The irony there, though, is that the most value for our dollar could be garnered by spending it on just that. Annually, 2.5 million children are dying worldwide due to inadequate nutrition. That’s fully one third of all preventable childhood deaths. And that number just speaks to mortality, not to those children whose growth is retarded or who suffer lifelong damage due to malnutrition. This is where aid should be going. Preventing those losses would lead to stronger, healthier workforces as those children mature, and would increase the benefits of aid given at different levels.
In America, programs designed to improve child nutrition have seen significant success over the last 50 years. These programs, largely introduced through school meals, have traditionally focused more on under-nourishment. Now there’s a shift to combating mal-nourishment. It’s an important distinction and a different gradient on the scale of poor nutrition. The difference between not having enough to eat, and not eating well. Quantity must definitely be addressed, especially in developing nations where famines can still wreak havoc, but quality must follow soon after, or better yet be tied in.
We have a duty here to combat global malnutrition, but the fight doesn’t begin outside of our borders. It’s merely a continuation.
David Wilson graduated from the University of Texas in 2006. Since then he has gone wherever the wind blows him, living in Europe, China, and the States, and traveling extensively throughout the rest of the world. When he’s not on the move, you can find him obsessing over latte art, playing piano, or trying to bleach his hair in the sunshine. Follow him on Twitter.