World Food Day: Can we make hunger history?

The United Nations wants to eliminate global hunger by 2030. That may not be as daunting a task as it sounds.

Heng Sinith/AP
Farmers pull a motor cart loaded with vegetables for transportation to a main market at a paddy field farms in Krang Yov complex, Kandal province, south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, to mark World Food Day. Cambodia celebrated World Food Day in an event jointly organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Food Programme at the remote areas of Krang Yov.

The United Nations is promoting a lofty goal this World Food Day: the elimination of global hunger by 2030.

“Just imagine the night in 2030 when no child, woman or man goes to bed hungry,” Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme said Thursday during celebrations sponsored by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. “Starting now, each of us must stand up, get involved and do our part to make the changes so we reach Zero Hunger by 2030.”

The elimination of worldwide hunger could have a significant impact on the quality of life of millions of people around the world. Research has shown that proper care and nutrition during the earliest years of a person’s life lead to higher incomes and better overall livelihood.

There has been significant worldwide progress in recent years, but more work needs to be done. According to the The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 Report, the number of undernourished people in the world has declined, from 23.3 percent in the early nineties, to 12.9 percent today. The majority of those gains have been recorded in Latin America, parts of Asia, and former Soviet states.

Ms. Cousin suggested that the goal of total eradication of chronic hunger is achievable by "ending extreme poverty, supporting small-holder farmers and ensuring access to nutritious food all year round for the most vulnerable people by investing in social protection programs.”

One country that has made marked gains on the very goals Cousin specifies is Bangladesh, once cited as a chronically hungry and desperately poor nation. It has done so through an emphasis on improvements in farming technology and strengthening the role of women in their economy, as The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this year. Microfinance, or small-business loans, have provided a much-needed boon for business development.

Defeating hunger may not necessarily take sweeping changes or large injections of money, many who work on hunger issues in the developing world say. The West African nation of Ghana managed to achieve "zero hunger," largely by implementing a simple change to the tax code that allows cocoa farmers to keep a larger percentage of revenues derived from their crops. 

Many developing nations are exploring the potential for school gardens to alleviate child hunger, and in turn boost children's ability to learn and grow up into productive members of their society. Communities in the United States, where true hunger may be rare but food insecurity remains a significant problem, are also beginning to integrate gardens into schools. 

The World Food Day website provides some suggestions for how people around the world can help combat hunger.

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