Global inequality of the food system


Hungry children asking for food. Source:

It is worldwide known that there are millions of people that are undernourished which in many cases even lead to death. Our world manages it to produce enough food but fails when it comes to feeding the whole world’s population.

Some 805 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. In some countries, one child in three is underweight.

The world produces enough to feed the entire global population of 7 billion people.

Who are the hungry?


805 million people is about one in eight people on earth, whereas it is interesting to know who these people are and where they live.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries. As shown in the graph below, most of these people live in Asia and the Pacific followed by Africa. Less hungry people live in Latin America/Caribbean and the smallest amount of 15 million people from countries with higher income levels.

Distribution of the 805 million hungry people in the world. Source:

Women and Children: 

In addition to that, women and children are mainly affected by poverty and hunger. This is owed to cultural tradition and social structures. Women who are already underweight or malnourished give birth do their children who automatically struggle to reach a normal weight. Without external aid, they are usually not able to grow up healthy, learn and go to school.

To be highlighted is the fact that 17 million children are born underweight annually. Moreover a recent report of UNICEF “Levels & Trends in Child Mortality” states that poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. The reason for that is in most of the cases also malnutrition.

What is malnutrition?

In many cases the problem is not just hunger itself but also the kind of food. Healthy nutrition cannot to be left out when speaking about hunger. Malnutrition indicates a lack of nutritional elements necessary for human health.

Often people cannot afford nutritious food or do not have access to the land, water and education that is needed. Consequences of malnutrition, especially for children, are growing problems, less resistance to diseases and learning limitations. This again leads to less future income and to a reduction of life expectancy.

What causes the inequality? 


Food wastage after a meal. Source:

Given the fact that there is enough food produced in the world   why do people still go to bed hungry? What happens with all  the food? Accordingto the World Food Program (WFP) there are different reasons but I would like to concentrate on one of them: Food Wastage.

It is astonishing how much people in some parts of the world consume, especially in societies that are well off.

An example that has occurred to me here in Madrid: When people go to a restaurant, café or bar to order a beer, they usually get not just the beer but with it free food e.g. chips, olives, potatoes or chicken. No doubt, it is a very enjoyable habit but is it really necessary? Moreover, what happens with the food that does not get eaten?

According to recent facts of the FAO, 1.3 billion tons of all food in the world is wasted. These tons of food would be enough to feed 4 times all the hungry in the world.

Of course, to live means to consume. However, consumption of food has turned into overconsumption and this again brought food wastage with it. Referring to the example given above, food wastage does not only happen on consumer level but also on retail and manufacturing levels.
In countries with higher income level, 55-65% of the food is wasted at consumer level, 15-20% at retail level and 20-25% at manufacturing level. Whereas developing countries suffer most of the food losses during agriculture production.

First of all, people in countries with higher incomer levels just throw food away that they don’t want to eat or need anymore. Secondly, supermarkets, restaurant or cafes produce a lot of food waste. This happens because the consumer demands fresh products and full shelves at any time and the food that is than left over gets mainly thrown away.

What could be a solution?

In my opinion it has to be an integrated, complex approach to possibly reach more equality. In general, sustained political commitment at the highest level, with food security and nutrition as top priorities, is a prerequisite for hunger eradication.

On the one hand, a solution needs to include public and private investments to raise more agricultural productivity and more affectivity. Therefore it is essential to educate people how to farm and not just to provide them with products. Moreover, better access to inputs, land, services, technologies and markets have to be improved. Also, social protection for the weakest, including strengthening their resilience to conflicts and natural disasters and specific nutrition programmes, particularly to address undernourished women and children under five.

On the other hand, these mentioned improvements would only be successful when food wastage will be reduced as well.
Hence, every individual that tends to consume more food than necessary needs to reduce their consumption, especially concerning the resulting waste. When going to the supermarket, it should be indented to just buy what is needed. Leftovers should be reused for other meals. If food is really not reusable anymore, it should be composted.
Furthermore, restaurants, cafés and bars should have fewer options on their menus to avoid storage of food. If food is than still left over, they should give it away for free to special institutes or the last costumers.

Overall advocating, raising awareness and helping effect policies are one of the most important issues. These solutions might sound very general but only if everyone changes these basic behaviours, a sustainable change is possible.

Taking into account the possible population growth up to 9 billion in 2050, I am convinced it is urgent to start to change our behaviours towards food consumption! If not, what will happen in 2050?

Main Sources:

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