Meeting in 2000 to boost international cooperation in economic and human development, world leaders established 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Goal 1 is the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger and a key target is to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. According to the latest MDG progress report, the percentage of undernourished people in developing countries decreased from 23.2% in 1990-1992 to 14.9% in 2010-2012. Still one in eight people in the world today remain chronically undernourished.
Chronic hunger is the inability to buy or otherwise obtain enough food over a protracted period to meet basic caloric needs. It is often associated with poverty, but also results when too little food is produced or available in nearby markets. Chronic hunger is less visible than acute hunger, but much more prominent. In 2013, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that 842 million people suffer from chronic hunger.
In addition to people who suffer from chronic hunger, others are faced with hunger and starvation due to natural and manmade crises. In March 2014, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that 33 countries are in crisis and need external food assistance due to crop failures, conflicts, natural disasters, and high domestic food and fuel prices. The UN High Commission on Refugees reported that by the end of 2013, 51.2 million people worldwide had been forcibly displaced from their home due to persecution, conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations. These included 16.7 million refugees, 33.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), and close to 1.2 million individuals whose asylum applications had not yet been adjudicated by the end of the reporting period.
The 2013 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition reported that 165 million children have stunted growth due to poor nutrition, which creates lifelong impediments to physical and cognitive development.
Each year, almost 7 million children die before reaching the age of five; malnutrition is a key factor in over a third of these deaths.
The lack of food is correlated with deterioration of democratic institutions in low-income countries and outbreaks of violence, human rights abuses and civil conflict.
Hunger reduces a nation’s economic advancement by at least 8% because of productivity losses, poorer cognitive skills, and lower school attendance and completion.
There are 55 low-income, food deficit countries (LIFDCs) that depend on imports to meet their food needs and therefore are strongly affected by volatility in world market prices.
When prices are high on the world market this limits the ability of these countries to procure adequate amounts of food to meet the needs of their populations. Other impediments are difficulty obtaining financing and difficulty exchanging their national currencies into tradable hard currencies.
The Economic Research Service (ERS) of the US Department of Agriculture examined likely changes in food intakes and needs from 2013 to 2023, for 76 low- and middle-income countries. Their work shows continued food shortfalls, particularly among the lower income groups in these countries.
In 2013, the total number of food-insecure people in those 76 countries was 707 million. By 2023, the number of food-insecure people is projected to increase nearly 23 percent to 868 million, with the share of the population that is food insecure growing from 20.4 percent to 21.5 percent. The distribution gap (the quantity of food needed for people in all income groups to meet the 2,100 calories per capita per day target) will rise from 15.4 million metric tons in 2013 to 19.7 million metric tons in 2023.
The Food Assistance Convention, 2012, is an agreement among donor countries to contribute to world food and nutrition security and to improve international response to emergency and other food needs of developing countries. It describes acceptable methods for providing food aid that can count against minimum annual commitments for each participating country and the European Community. The United States has the largest minimum commitment of $1.6 billion a year. The next largest is the European Union’s commitment of $410 million (300 euros), which is only one-fourth of the level pledged by the United States.
U.S. food assistance is primarily provided through three programs: Food for Peace Title II, Food for Progress and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition.
Below is a chart of the appropriations by the U.S. Congress for these programs for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.
FY 2013-FY2014 Food Aid Appropriations*Amounts x $100,00 FY 2013 Appropriations FY 2014 Appropriations Food for Peace Title II; donation of U.S. commodities to address chronic hunger and emergency needs 1,435 1,466 Minimum amt. of Title II for development programs that combine food aid with capacity-building assistance to improve nutrition, incomes and self-reliance of the poor 375 375 McGovern-Dole Int’l Food for Education and Child Nutrition; donation of U.S. commodities and assistance for school meal programs to improve enrollment and educational opportunity 184 185 Food for Progress; donation of U.S. commodities to improve agricultural systems in developing countries committed to economic reforms 243 230 Amt. of International Disaster Assistance used for local-regional food procurement, food vouchers and cash distributions** 578 600
*Funding for all programs, except Food for Progress, is provided on a fiscal year basis as part of yearly congressional appropriations bills. Food for Progress is funded by the Agricultural Act of 2014 for fiscal years 2014 through 2018.
**Amount of actual expenditures is provided for FY 2013; estimated expenditures for FY 2014.
The combination of handling, processing and transporting the commodities from the farm to US ports, plus the cost of moving the commodities from U.S. ports to foreign ports, had the following overall impacts on the U.S. economy in FY09, based on Department of Commerce multipliers:
- $1,972,000,000 in output of all US industries
- $518,000,000 in earnings of households
- 13,043 jobs