World Food Day is this Sunday, October 16th and it’s not just about food. It’s also not just about recognizing that hunger exists. It’s about taking action against hunger. And there’s so much you can do.
This isn’t just another hashtag. World Food Day has been observed around the world by millions of people since 1979. The idea is that every human being has a right to nutritional food that will sustain them. Not food that will keep them alive, but adequate food to be able to live with vitality, meaning each person has a right to enough food to be able to function while at work, in school, or tending to daily activities without the cognitive and physical impairment caused by hunger.
The global population is steadily growing with the expectation that it will reach 9.5 million by 2050. This means an increase in food demand, which necessitates real changes in agricultural practices, food policy, and food systems, to ensure we are able to meet these demands and continue to grow with them.
And because this day is about action, it has a goal. World Hunger Day is an attempt to bring about an end to hunger. This may sound lofty, but when you look at the numbers, we can end hunger in our lifetime. The world produces enough food to feed every person on the planet.1 From a global perspective, extreme climate events (e.g., examine the recent death toll in Haiti if you want an example of an extreme climate event that destroys food stores and causes hunger), war, financial crisis, food waste and other causes significantly affect individual’s and community’s ability to feed themselves.
The World Food Day site1 says it best, “Without social safety nets, resiliency measures and good policy, these small and large events can set off a cycle of hunger and poverty.”
Here are just a few quick statistics to help bring focus to the hunger epidemic.
- Every year, consumers in industrialized countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan African (222 million vs 230 million tons).2
- The amount of food lost and wasted globally every year is equal to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crops (2.3 billion tons in 2009/10).2
- In the USA, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions.2
- In the USA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.2
- And in the U.S. alone, one of the richest countries, 14.3 percent of Americans – one in seven – does not have enough to eat.3
There are many ways to work toward ending hunger. Some we can take part in through everyday decisions and others require a bigger commitment. Either way, understanding some of the major solutions is imperative.
- Growing food in a sustainable way such as using resources wisely, takes control of some major issues that contribute to world hunger before food is even … food. This requires more informed policy and agricultural practices.4
- Growing our own food. If we really want to rely on local, organic, trustworthy food, farm-to-table works in restaurants, why can’t we use garden-to-table in our homes. An indoor salad-bar garden can be grown in a hall closet and can feed two people one meal a day, year-round. There are so many year-round gardeners with various blueprints, it’s staggering, but I have listed a resource at the end of this article.5
- Wasting purchased food isn’t planned, but it happens more than it should. Make your grocery purchases a conscious act. Plan ahead. And when food is becoming ripe faster than expected, have a backup plan, such as freezing it or making vegetable stock. If it does over ripen and is beyond freezing, be sure to compost it. Many community gardens and plant nurseries will accept compost. Many cities are beginning composting programs as well.6 You can also consider donating to food banks when appropriate.7
- When eating out, bring home the leftovers. And if your eyes tend to be bigger than your stomach, ask for smaller portions.
- Donate to food banks and other hunger programs. Consider a volunteer day where you feed the hungry. Sometimes being face-to-face with hunger can help inspire us to take on challenges like composting, meal planning, and gardening with more vigor.
- Try eating foods that are more environmentally friendly. Beef, for example, has one of the largest carbon footprints because of the way it is raised, feeding and housing requirements, transportation, and other challenges. Commit to other types of meat with a lower carbon footprint, such as turkey or pork.8 You might also consider other veggie-favoring activities like ‘meatless Mondays.’
- You can also choose environmentally friendly foods, such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils. These have a low carbon footprint and there are some seriously impressive recipes that get creative with these ingredients.9
- As event and meeting professionals, we can own our charge to effectively manage food and beverage by planning low-carbon footprint menus and by adopting a zero food waste policy in our kitchens.
World Food Day is a day to not only recognize, but answer the call-to-action to end hunger. This Sunday, choose one or more of these options, or create your own and share it with me. Plan your Sunday meal to be low carbon footprint. Look into planting an indoor garden. Begin composting. Volunteer. Just one of these would contribute in a positive meaningful way to the global misery of hunger and poverty. It’s sad that there is such a disparity – that statistics for obesity and malnutrition are nearly matched. Let’s all take on this challenge together.