Tuesday, October 16, 2007

World Hunger Day

In the spirit of raising awareness for World Hunger Day, I had my 9-10 Biology classes look at some of the ecological reasons/solutions for global hunger. The more I research, the more I realize that the biggest step we can take toward reducing hunger and uneven food distribution is to stop eating meat (or at least eat significantly less meat). My kids didn't really like to hear that, nor did they enjoy the graphing activity I had them do. Try it out and see if you can do better than they did. Most likely you can.

(please note that the attached is cut and pasted from many forgotten sources. I did the graphs myself, though. I love Excel!)


October 16th, 2007

Hunger in the World

In total, there are about 810 million people suffering from chronic hunger; 770 million live in developing countries and 38 million in developed countries.

Every 3.6 seconds, someone dies of hunger.

Among the deaths from hunger, only 10% die from hunger caused by disasters and war. The rest are mainly due to extreme poverty and chronic hunger.

Children and Hunger

3 of 4 deaths caused by malnutrition are of children below the age of 5.

Every day in the developing world, 30,500 children die of preventable diseases such as diarrhea, respiratory infections or malaria. Malnutrition is associated with more than half of those deaths.

Hunger in Asia

Almost two-thirds (526 million) of the world's hungry people live in developing countries in Asia and the Pacific.

In Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Mongolia, more than 33% of the population is undernourished.

Hunger in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to almost a quarter of the hungry people in developing world, totalling about 180 million.

Hunger in Rich Areas

In the United States, 800,000 households suffer from severe hunger, according to a recent nationwide government survey.

In the United States, 10% of households are hungry, on the edge of hunger, or worried about being hungry.

Causes of Hunger in the World

Uneven Distribution of Resources

Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day. That doesn't even count many other commonly eaten foods - vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish.


The poorer you are, the fewer resources you can access. Even though there’s enough food, millions of people cannot afford to buy it.

Uneven Distribution of Land

A small number of rich people own most of the farmland while the poor majority is left to struggle on small plots of farmland.

In Brazil, more than three-quarters of the land belongs to the richest 1% of the population. The land use often concentrates on agricultural and animal products for export rather than local needs.

Heavy Foreign Debt
To repay the large debts and to purchase imported goods for economic development, governments in indebted countries encourage and sometimes force farmers to grow cash crops or export goods such as flowers, cotton, coffee, and seafood, instead of staple food for the country's own people.

In some debt-ridden countries, the governments have cut spending on social services such as relief food for poor families who are facing starvation.


Wars not only lead to human or financial loss, but also destroy farmland and irrigation facilities, thereby stopping or reducing food production. For instance, armed conflicts in Africa have led to at least 20 million people facing starvation over the past 10 years.

Natural Disasters

Due to environmental degradation, global weather has changed and brought floods and droughts to many parts of the world in recent years.

Environmental Degradation
Due to environmental degradation, the productivity of some poor areas has been reduced. In 1998, more than two million hectares of farmland in China were lost due to soil erosion, desertification, industrial development, uncontrolled urbanization, and natural disasters. Over the past 20 years, the size of deserts has been increasing by 2,460 square kilometers per year.

Food Wastage

Food wastage is quite common in rich societies. To maintain profits, some governments try to uphold high prices by ensuring there is no surplus food supply. Some developed countries deliberately destroy so-called excess supplies of food even though they are still fresh and edible. In 1995, the US destroyed some 43 million tons of food, about 27% of what is available for consumption.

Using Graphs to Understand World Hunger

Using the graph below, answer the following questions:

1. Which region of the world had the highest number of undernourished people in 1969?

2. How many undernourished people did Latin American countries have in 1989?

3. Which region had the biggest increase in undernourished people?

4. Knowing that today there are 810 million people living with chronic hunger, have these regions continued the trends seen in the graph? Explain.

World Hunger and Resource Use

5. From the graph below, which food provides the most protein per acre of land? Which food provides the least?

6. Contrast the protein production of grains and vegetables (producers) and of animal products (consumers).

7. What can this graph teach us about how to solve world hunger?

8. What is shown in the graph below?

9. Which food requires the least amount of water? How much does it require? (include units)

10. Why does beef require so much more water than corn or chicken?


Chaka said...

Hmmm.... less meat, huh? I'll acknowledge that this is probably a good move for most Americans to make, for a variety of reasons, but it seems pretty far removed from getting food to the people who need it. I think the way our government artificially increases the price of food is a bigger problem, and changing that would have a much bigger and more direct impact. But I guess an individual can't make that decision.

Special K said...

Well, I'm sick of wasting my time trying to format these silly posts. I realize the fonts are all off and you can't see the graphs, so the 1-2 people who may actually read this blog can just ask me to email them the word documents I have.

Special K said...

I agree with you, Chaka, that most of the influential changes are on the government and large corporation levels, but we as consumers do have quite an influence with the choices we make. Supply and demand, baby. Now we just need enough people to stop creating the demand for meat!