Food blog

The Alarming Truth: Where Harvested Food Really Goes

The depressing statistic that reveals the fate of harvested food

In the quest to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ending global hunger by 2030, there are several critical challenges that must be addressed. Food security, nutritional quality and sustainable agriculture are at the forefront of these issues, especially for vulnerable populations such as children and those living in poverty. However, the current state of affairs paints a bleak picture, indicating that there is still a long way to go.

The global food crisis

According to the United Nations, an estimated 2 billion people, or 26% of the world’s population, lacked regular access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food in 2019. Unfortunately, the situation has worsened due to a number of factors, including supply chain disruptions, unemployment, rising food prices, and reduced household incomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of these challenges has been particularly severe for school-aged children, with millions of students going hungry as face-to-face education was disrupted.
Regions such as the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa have experienced significant increases in food insecurity during the pandemic. Africa, in particular, experienced the highest overall levels of food insecurity. In addition, the ongoing war in Ukraine has contributed to the crisis, as the country was responsible for a significant portion of global wheat production prior to the conflict.
According to the U.S.-based Global Leadership Coalition, the number of food-insecure people worldwide is expected to rise to 323 million by the end of this year. Despite these alarming statistics, global food production is actually sufficient to end hunger. The key lies in how the harvested food is distributed and used.

The Misallocation of Harvested Food

One of the most disheartening realities is that a significant amount of harvested food doesn’t actually end up in people’s mouths. As reported by The Conversation, just 10 crops account for 80% of the plant calories consumed by people around the world. These crops include barley, cassava, corn (maize), oil palm, rapeseed (canola), rice, sorghum, soybeans, sugarcane, and wheat. Between 1960 and 2010, there was a significant increase in the production of these crops, suggesting that a steady increase in food production could potentially alleviate hunger.
However, a recent study published in Nature Food suggests that by 2030, we will be significantly off track to achieve the goal of zero hunger. It is estimated that only 29% of the production of these 10 crops will be used to feed the population, compared to 51% in the 1960s. The remaining 71% is sold to agribusiness industries, including the biofuel, pharmaceutical, and bioplastics sectors, as well as food manufacturers. These industries use the crops to produce things like food additives, animal feed, and other non-food products.
Unfortunately, this shift in allocation disproportionately affects people in poorer countries who rely primarily on rice, corn, bread, and vegetable oils for their diets. This disparity is already evident in the United States, where only 1% of the corn grown is intended for human consumption, while the rest is used for various other purposes.
Furthermore, The Conversation warns that by 2030, nearly 50 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, will struggle to produce enough food domestically to feed their populations. To address this issue, it is critical to fight poverty in these regions and support initiatives that enable people to produce more crops for food consumption.

Tackling global hunger and food insecurity

Ending world hunger will require the collective efforts of individuals, the private sector, and governments. The U.S. Agency for International Development emphasizes that global hunger not only affects individual well-being, but also threatens national health and security. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to invest in research, development, and technology to fight hunger on a global scale.
Several charitable organizations are actively working to fight hunger around the world. The Spruce Eats has compiled a list of the top 10 charities dedicated to this cause. These organizations hire staff, recruit volunteers, and allocate donations to make a significant impact. Also worth mentioning is the remarkable work of Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, which provides meals during natural disasters and times of conflict.
By supporting these initiatives, individuals can help fight global hunger and promote a more equitable distribution of food resources. In addition, governments and policymakers must prioritize policies that reduce poverty, increase agricultural productivity and ensure access to nutritious food for all.
Ultimately, achieving the goal of ending global hunger by 2030 will require a comprehensive approach that includes sustainable agriculture, equitable distribution of food resources, and a commitment to addressing the root causes of food insecurity. By raising awareness, supporting charities and advocating for policy change, we can work towards a future where no one goes to bed hungry.


What percentage of the world’s population does not have regular access to safe and nutritious food?

It is estimated that 26% of the world’s population, or 2 billion people, lack regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected food insecurity?

The pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity through supply chain disruptions, unemployment, increased food prices and reduced household incomes, particularly affecting vulnerable populations such as school-aged children.

Which regions have experienced the highest levels of food insecurity?

Africa experienced the highest levels of food insecurity overall, while the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa experienced significant increases in food insecurity during the pandemic.

Why is a significant portion of harvested food not used to feed people?

Only 29% of the 10 most consumed crops are used to feed people, while the remaining 71% is sold to agribusiness and food manufacturers for non-food uses such as biofuels, pharmaceuticals and food additives.

Which countries are expected to face challenges in producing enough food domestically?

By 2030, some 50 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, may struggle to produce enough food domestically to feed their populations.

How can individuals help end world hunger?

Individuals can support charitable organizations that fight hunger, raise awareness of the issue, and advocate for policy changes that prioritize poverty reduction and equitable access to nutritious food.

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