Can A Plant-Based Diet Help End World Hunger?
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, between 720 to 811 million people in the world suffered from hunger in 2020. Food insecurity is growing at home as well, with the coronavirus pandemic making things worse. The question right now is: can plant-based diet help end world hunger?
People around the world are hungry because of a variety of factors. While poverty is the leading driver of hunger, many environmental, political, and social factors also contribute.
Then there’s the issue of climate change as well, which is hampering food production through droughts, storms, and wildfires.
World Hunger Statistics
Before we talk about plant-based eating, in particular, let’s discuss some numbers about food insecurity and world hunger. These statistics will give you a better idea of how serious this issue has become.
As mentioned earlier, even though food production worldwide has been consistently rising over the years, as many as 811 million people are still hungry. The problem is more prevalent in poor countries, especially those low on natural resources and lacking infrastructure.
Africa has the worst food insecurity and hunger situation, with an estimated 234 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa undernourished. In East Africa, the numbers are rapidly rising as 33.8 million people are facing severe food insecurity.
Food scarcity is impacting America as well, with many poor families not being able to feed their children properly. According to Save the Children organization, 17 million children in the US are struggling with hunger. This number dramatically increased last year, thanks to the pandemic, which is still far from over.
Save the Children also says that hungry children are more likely to be less attentive at school and even repeat a grade.
The situation is even worse in countries with ongoing conflicts like Yemen. The World Food Programme says there are as many as 16.2 million people in the country facing extreme hunger, many of which are children.
It’s clear from these facts and statistics that hunger and food insecurity is a global issue. While it affects underdeveloped countries harshly, it’s not unique to them as children are going hungry even in rich countries.
Causes of World Hunger
There are several causes behind such catastrophic levels of hunger in the world:
Poverty is the main reason behind hunger in both developed and underdeveloped worlds. In poor countries, many people simply don’t earn enough to buy adequate food supplies. Those who work in agricultural fields don’t have enough money to buy supplies to grow their own food.
In more developed countries, poverty results from income inequality, which, in turn, increases food insecurity for families with less than average income. Racial inequity also comes into play as, in the US, African American communities face hunger disproportionately more.
Although the world can produce enough food for its population, there’s still a severe food shortage in many places. Bad management, supply chain issues, and climate change are all contributing to a fast-growing food shortage in many parts of the world.
Many countries are not self-sufficient when it comes to food production and rely on imports. That also results in higher prices of food, which poor people cannot afford.
Conflict and War
Politics and conflict are also contributing to world hunger. For instance, in Venezuela, the political turmoil resulted in empty food shelves in stores. One in three people in an astonishingly resource-rich country like Venezuela is facing hunger.
The situation is pretty similar in African and Middle Eastern countries seeing conflict and wars.
How Can Plant-based Diet Help End World Hunger?
A very detailed report by Our World in Data is revealing how a plant-based diet can help combat food insecurity and hunger.
The report took into account the data by the UN about different countries and how each can produce more food by growing plant crops rather than raising livestock. It suggests that just 11 million hectares for growing whole food crops can meet the daily calories for the whole world population. In contrast, livestock for the same amount of calories will require land four times the size.
The land used for raising livestock includes both the land they are raised on and the land their feed is grown on. With the world population rising rapidly, it’s clear that we’re not using the land efficiently to grow the food needed by the population.
Plant-based whole foods require lesser resources and smaller lands than livestock. As a result, it can feed more people using the same resources and land than animal protein would (meatless meat may also help).
It’s important to mention here that a plant-based diet is also good for the environment. Beef production has taken a terrible toll on the environment via the greenhouse effect and deforestation. Just one kilogram of meat is responsible for 60 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions.
The problem of world hunger isn’t simply lack of food, but also lack of proper nutrition. Food should provide children and adults the nutrients they need not just to survive but to thrive. This calls for a well-balanced diet with carbs, protein, fat, and other macronutrients.
It’s not news that a whole-food plant-based diet is inherently well-balanced in terms of nutrition. Fresh veggies, fruits, whole grains, and nuts can provide all the essential nutrients, and that too without empty calories.
Can plant-based diet help end world hunger? It cannot only help end world hunger but also provide healthy nutrition that, by extension, reduces diseases and bad environmental impact.
Ending world hunger is one of the primary UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which it plans to achieve by 2030. However, it seems unlikely that such a feat would be achieved by then. At the same time, it’s not entirely impossible.
A plant-based diet may just be the answer to this pressing issue. By growing more plant foods and increasing their consumption, the world can feed its hungry children. It can also help reduce carbon emissions, which have already crossed their limits to keep temperature increase in check.
You, too, can play your part in ending world hunger by making sustainable choices and never wasting food!