What is hunger?
When we think of hunger, we often think of images of skeletal children during a famine or drought. Unfortunately, this type of acute hunger exists. It is the result of being without food for an extended period of time, due to an emergency like conflict or a natural disaster.
But only about one of eight cases of hunger in the developing world is like this. More often, hunger is the result of having not enough food to eat, over a long period of time, or not eating sufficiently nutritious food.This kind of hunger is less visible, slowly affecting people over time.
When not enough food is consumed, the body is undernourished. It compensates by slowing down its physical and mental activities. Without enough food, people cannot concentrate at school or work. They don’t have the energy they need for physical work. And since it weakens the immune system, hunger also makes people vulnerable to disease.
Undernourishment is particularly harmful for women and children. Undernourished children do not grow as quickly as healthy children, and they develop more slowly mentally. Mothers who are undernourished often give birth to underweight and weak babies, and face increased risk of death themselves.
Sadly, millions of people around the world today only eat the bare minimum of food necessary to keep them alive. Every night, many go to bed not knowing if they will have enough food tomorrow. They are what “food insecure,” a situation described by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as a “situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life.”
At Canadian Foodgrains Bank, we respond to acute hunger when it occurs, providing emergency food relief. But we also address the challenge of food insecurity—helping people who don’t have enough to eat to find ways to provide more food in the longer-term.
Hunger and malnutrition is the number one risk to health in the world.
Image: Asha Ahmed Abdi, 22, holds her child in Somalia in summer 2011. Photo credit, Frank Spangler
98 percent of the world's hungry people live in developing countries. Children, pregnant and nursing mothers, and rural communities are at the highest risk of experiencing hunger.
Hunger knows no bounds - find out where the world's 925 million hungry people live.
Malnutrition? Stunting? Wasting? Micronutrients? Learn more about these terms.
Food Security is having access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet dietary needs for an active and healthy life.
If you've ever asked "Why are people hungry?" then you're interested in food justice.