Food Insecurity: A Global Crisis

By Elizabeth Pachus, Aanika Patel, Georgia Rosenberg, and Annabelle Stoker

August 12, 2021

2021: A World Facing Hunger

In 2020, 2.3 billion, or almost 30% of the world population, were without reliable access to a sufficient, affordable, and nutritious food supply. Of those facing food insecurity, it is estimated that 720-811 million people are facing hunger on an extreme level. Global hunger has been on the rise since 2014, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the extreme inequalities in food security across the world. While one in eight Americans and one in three people across the world are facing food insecurity, one third of the global food supply is lost or wasted each year. Bold systemic change throughout the global food system is essential to meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goals for Zero Hunger by 2030.

World Leaders Convene

The 2021 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) was recently published by top global agencies such as the the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Health Organization (WHO) among others. The collaborative report details the grave extent of widespread hunger and food insecurity throughout the continents. Unfortunately, current global trends indicate a severe shortcoming in reaching the Zero Hunger 2030 goal, with the pandemic only exacerbating inequality and disrupting food supply chains across the globe.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021

Recently, leaders from over 100 countries convened both virtually and in person for the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit held in Rome. Poised to prepare for the first-ever UN Food Systems Summit this fall in New York City, the Pre-Summit centered around discussing solutions for food systems around the world in hopes to reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, the goals of the 2021 summit this fall focus on generating action and progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Looking Ahead: Global Commitments to End Hunger

The most recent 2021 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report details the current inequalities plaguing the global food system, and places a spotlight on the drastic number of people affected this year. At the same time, it also highlights the steps that need to be taken to eliminate widespread hunger. The recommended food pathway transformation includes conflict resolution, poverty support, preparing food systems for climate change, changing food environments, and overall restructuring the food supply chain to enable healthy nutritious food more accessible to all. However, in order for any dramatic changes to occur, world leaders need to commit to change and begin taking action.

Through a series of five pathways, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has also identified a more succinct set of goals for food system transformation: to ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all, shift to sustainable consumption patterns, boost nature positive production, advance equitable livelihoods, and build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks, and stress.

Nonetheless, tangible action and effective policy needs to be implemented to have any hopes of achieving these goals. The Pre-Summit created an opportunity to begin these conversations, also highlighting a focus on engaging all actors needed—from public and private sectors to government entities, farmers and youth—to create change. A portion of the pre-summit titled “Youth Priorities and Commitments for a Better Food System” included speakers from youth liaison groups who cited the importance of engaging the youth of today in activism and future solutions.

The Global Food System and the Economy

Engaging a multitude of sectors is essential for solving the international food crisis. The food system impacts every