No one should go hungry.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world faced a monumental challenge: a staggering 650 million people faced hunger. The global crises - climate change, Covid-19 and geopolitical conflict has only exacerbated this problem, pushing an additional 118 million people into hunger. We are now spurring a global food crisis with 44 million people in 38 countries are facing extreme hunger.
And here in Aotearoa New Zealand we face a similar problem – maybe not as extreme but nevertheless a problem with too many going to bed hungry at night.
But hunger is a solvable issue. It's dependent on lifting people out of poverty — including those who produce, pick and process our food — around the world farmers and food workers have some of the highest rates of food insecurity. In times of crisis, we focus on getting food and cash to the most vulnerable, as soon as possible — but we can't stop there. Over the past three decades we have failed to sustainably address systemic hunger, and right now we're on another deadly trajectory.
Advocates of large-scale, intensive industrial agriculture are saying, yet again, that the solution to the current hunger crises is to ramp up global production. But in reality, the world's farmers produce more than enough food to feed the global population, and in recent years, the world has witnessed record harvests of grain. There is no lack of food — there is only a lack of equality. There is enough food for everyone.
And here again, New Zealand is no different. We grow, produce, and import sufficient food resources to put a nutritious meal on every dinner table throughout the country and yet we have failed.
The solution lies in supporting both urgent, emergency measures to save lives now, and by overhauling the systems that produce and distribute our food, so we can escape this terrible cycle.
Here at the major facility of Foodbank Aotearoa New Zealand we process and redistribute over 5 tonnes of food – both rescued, donated and purchased per day. That’s resourcing in excess of 284,000 individual meals per month … … and that’s just in our immediate area!
Despite this, FBANZ member beneficiary organisations reported that there were more requests to local food banks last year, the highest number of visits ever recorded.
And in this year we are up 30.2% over the same period last year.
Abby Maxman, President and CEO of Oxfam America states that the longer-term fix will depend on us investing in a more equitable global system for agriculture and food supply. “Small-scale family farms feed one-third of the world's population, but too often these vital operations are overlooked.
The legislation works to empower farmers in low-income countries to build a stronger foundation so they are ready for the next drought, flood or distant conflict. It also emphasizes the needs of women, who are often overlooked as key guardians of food security in their households and communities. And it gives resources to those who suffer the worst consequences of the climate crisis, while contributing to it the least.”
Hunger is unacceptable and preventable in the 21st century. Everyone should have access to affordable, healthy food. To witness so many of our people living one step away from hunger while there is so much excess, is an abomination. Only the right political choices can end hunger. We can do so by acting boldly to end this tragedy by investing quickly, generously, and strategically in global food security — for everyone. Unfortunately, politicians do not see the problem the way we who live with it every day see it.
It is of little benefit to just ‘throw’ dollars at a general concept without considering the actual situation. Too many dollars are wasted or ‘misplaced’ without making it through to the agencies actually making things happen. We need to make smarter choices.
The crisis has forced leaders to make challenging decisions quickly - and more critical choices loom on the horizon. And so, in this untemplated world in which we have to operate, smart choices are essential. A clear set of decision-making principles can help ensure that those of us who work on the frontline of food insecurity don’t lose their way as they navigate tough tradeoffs.