A message from the CEO

Hunger on the rise, food waste reaches record levels

Partners & Friends, Thank you for your engagement with The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), and your leadership in the fight against hunger through food banking. For the third year in a row there has been a rise in world hunger, according to a report released yesterday by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Since last year the number of people facing chronic hunger has climbed to 821 million from 815 million people, meaning 1 in 9 people are going to bed hungry.  Hunger situations in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia have worsened, and those in Central America and East, South and South East Asia have only marginally improved. The FAO report reviews more than two decades of data to conclude what seems obvious to many of us – that coupled with armed conflict and political strife, the increase in climate variability is identified as a significant driver in rising hunger rates.  The FAO details how the prevalence of undernourished people tends to be higher in countries more highly exposed to significant climate extremes. What is especially concerning is that the weather events detailed in the report – droughts, floods, changing rainfall patterns, etc. – are expected to become more widespread and frequent in the years ahead. This directly affects people that rely on the agriculture for their livelihoods and those that live in rural areas.  But it could also mean higher food prices for consumers everywhere, which reduces food access for poor and at-risk populations. Finally, the report highlights the rise in people suffering from micronutrient deficiencies, which numbers about two billion and affects the majority of countries globally. It presents clear evidence that these deficiencies can result in stunted growth and cognitive development in children, and anemia in adolescent girls and women, which negatively affects their health status and that of their children.  This research affirms what our network already knows too well – that when people’s bank accounts fall short, they choose less expensive foods that are often high in calories, but low in nutrients.  The experience of not knowing where your next meal will come from causes feelings of anxiety, stress and depression, and can contribute to greater food insecurity and hunger over the long-term.  It is a great irony that this study was released less than a month after new research projected that the volume of food lost and wasted will rise 1.9 percent annually from 2015 to 2030, to an estimated 2.1 billion tons.  Much of that lost food could be recovered and redistributed to people facing hunger. This raises a number of questions for our work:
  • How will food prices be affected by climate shocks and trade barriers in the months and years ahead, and are food banks prepared to respond to the demand those crises will create?
  • Given the projected increase in climate volatility, will food banks be more regularly called upon to provide humanitarian relief in weather-related disasters?
  • As food banking organizations tap into agricultural and farm surpluses, will those sources of food be inconsistently available due to extreme weather events in the years ahead? 
  • Are food banks doing enough to target populations that are especially vulnerable to hunger and micronutrient deficiencies, especially children and women?
It is questions like these that we look forward to tackling with all of you throughout this year, including at the Food Bank Leadership Institute 2019, in London. What is obvious is that demand for the community-based hunger relief that food banks provide is on the rise, and the food bank model – which has been tried and adopted in more than 60 countries globally – holds special promise for tackling global challenges of hunger, malnutrition, and food loss and waste. It is not a solution for everyone facing chronic hunger, but it is a proven, indigenous intervention that can advance food security in many communities. Hunger is on the rise, but we can do something about it. I hope that you and your colleagues can use the above findings to convey to your networks the urgency of the challenge, the proven solution and opportunity to both nourish those facing hunger and advance sustainability through promoting the food bank model.  Thank you for all you do, and for your willingness to be part of GFN in advancing this hunger relief and food waste solution on a global scale. With best regards, Lisa Moon GFN President and CEO