Global Food Crisis

What is Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity is a measure of an individual’s inability to access enough safe, nutritious food to remain healthy and lead an active life. It occurs when physical, social or economic circumstances disrupt a person’s access to sufficient quantities of nutritious food to remain healthy.

Food insecurity also occurs when a person has enough food in quantity, but it does not contain the quality of nutrition needed for a healthy life. Such a person is at a higher risk of obesity and disabling, even deadly, chronic diseases.

In short, food insecurity is inadequate access to food in quality, quantity or both.

According to the USA’s recent Economic Research Service study of international food security in 77 low- and middle-income countries, among the countries studied ...

The estimated prevalence of food insecurity in 2022 corresponds to more than 1.3 billion people potentially not having consistent access to the daily caloric threshold of 2,100 kcal.

Are There Different Levels of Food Insecurity?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, headquartered in New York, there are two different levels of food insecurity:

  • Moderate food insecurity. People experiencing moderate food insecurity (or marginal food security) are facing uncertainties about their ability to obtain food and have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of food they consume due to not having enough money or other resources.
  • Severe food insecurity. People facing severe food insecurity have typically run out of food, are experiencing hunger and at the most extreme, have gone a day or more without eating.

Unlike in the United States and other high food security countries, there are no safety nets for food-insecure households in low-income countries. There are no food banks, food pantries, or government food-assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. There also are few or no local nonprofits dedicated to helping low-income households that experience food insecurity and the lack of access to other basic needs.

During these challenging times, while most U.S. households experience discomfort from higher prices at the grocery store, the world’s households in poverty suffer very low food security and its related, dire health outcomes.

Is There a Difference Between Food Insecurity and Hunger?

Hunger, though certainly a result of food insecurity, is different. It is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO as the uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by the inadequate consumption of sufficient dietary energy (calories).

Hunger becomes chronic when a person experiences inadequate consumption of sufficient dietary energy for an extended period of time. Hunger is also referred to as undernutrition.

How Many People Are Facing Hunger and Food Insecurity Around the World?

Between 2015 and 2020 the prevalence of food insecurity and hunger around the world was holding steady. But with the onset of the coronavirus, global household food security took a dramatic downward turn and hunger made an equally dramatic upswing.

According to the FAO latest annual report, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022, between 2019 and 2021 ...

  • 150 million more people faced hunger, for a total of 828 million people lacking adequate food intake.
  • The percent of the world’s population experiencing hunger sharply increased from 8% to 9.8%.
  • 350 million more people experienced moderate or severe rates of food insecurity than pre-pandemic, for a total of 2.3 billion people (about 29.3% of the global population).
  • 207 million more people faced severe food insecurity, increasing the total to nearly 924 million people (11.7% of the global population).

828 Million
are facing hunger

2.3 Billion
are experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity

924 Million
are facing severe food insecurity

Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization (New York)

What Are the Physical Effects of Hunger on Children?

Particularly alarming are the statistics highlighted by the FAO 2022 report on the effects of hunger and food insecurity on the well-being of the world’s children today.

  • Up to 45 million children under age 5 are suffering from wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition.
  • 149 million children under age 5 have stunted growth and development caused by the chronic lack of essential nutrients in their diets.
  • Two in three children are not fed the minimum diverse diet they need to grow and develop to their full potential.
Child wasting is a life-threatening condition caused by insufficient nutrient intake, poor nutrient absorption, and/or frequent or prolonged illness. Affected children are dangerously thin with weakened immunity and a higher risk of mortality.
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022, Food and Agriculture Organization

Other Consequences of Food Insecurity and Hunger

In addition to the devastation brought upon children’s physical health, very low food security has these additional, serious impacts on the entire affected community:

  • Increased hospitalizations and public health care needs, along with higher health care costs.
  • Higher rates of violence and crime in a community.
  • Increased risk of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
  • A less educated and competitive workforce, with greater absenteeism and turnover rates for employees.
  • Reduced earning potential for the poorly educated and untrained.
  • Greater gender inequality and inequity between segments of society.

What Is Causing the Current Crisis of Hunger and Food Insecurity?

A perfect storm of recent global catastrophes has reversed decades of progress that saw millions of families lifted out of poverty, and the world is now facing a hunger and food insecurity crisis of devastating proportions. The causes of food insecurity and hunger today include the following:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has left impoverished families with little or no income and no savings to fall back on.
  • Conflicts in countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti and Burkina Faso are displacing families and preventing food from reaching impoverished communities.
  • The war in Ukraine has curtailed the country’s supply of wheat, cooking oil and fertilizer to low-income countries.
  • Sanctions on Russia have sent energy prices skyrocketing.
  • Supply chain issues are delaying shipments and impacting the cost of basic food items.
  • Runaway inflation is making the staple foods that impoverished people rely on unaffordable.
  • Severe weather has decimated the food resources and livelihoods of the world’s poor reliant upon small-scale agriculture.
The COVID-19 pandemic reversed progress in global poverty reduction for the first time in a generation in 2020. Its lingering effects, combined with rising inflation and the effects of the war in Ukraine, will lead between 75 million and 95 million additional people to live in extreme poverty in 2022 compared to pre-COVID-19 projections.
— World Bank

Food Insecurity Solutions

Solving the issue of household food insecurity around the world involves multiple areas of society and requires interventions that:

  • Build resilience to agricultural stressors and shocks.
  • Address water allocation and water rights.
  • Improve post-harvest food processing.
  • Reduce food waste. (According to the USDA, Americans waste over one-third of all available food.
  • Increase food safety.
  • Establish fair food trade and correct the disparities in distribution practices.
  • Protect and lift up small-scale farmers.
  • Expand and improve successful food access programs.
  • Target gender and race inequalities pertaining to food access and affordability.
  • Balance the nutritional benefits of food items against the ecological costs.
  • Promote better land use patterns and crop diversification.
Establishing global food security is important not only to hundreds of millions of hungry people, but also to the sustainable economic growth of these nations and the long-term economic prosperity of the United States.
— U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

How Does Compassion International Help Address Food Insecurity?

As the world’s leading authority in holistic child development through sponsorship, Compassion understands food insecurity at the household level is directly related to poverty.

Through thousands of local churches around the world, sponsors and donors ease the hunger and food insecurity of millions of babies, children and young adults in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America by addressing their acute needs for food, as well as the root causes of child hunger, child poverty and malnutrition.

Compassion’s Food Security Initiatives address the food security and other needs of children living in extreme poverty, while also providing preventive care to support long-term health and wellness.

By giving, you help provide healthy food, supplemental nutrition assistance and medical care to malnourished children and support to our therapeutic feeding and food stability initiatives. A donation today will also help safeguard children from illnesses that hamper early childhood development and threaten their lives.

Donate today to help address life-threatening food security needs and to provide:

  • Food assistance through healthful food kits that include essentials like rice, eggs, meat, milk, corn and other nonperishable dry goods.
  • Medical therapeutic feeding for babies, children or youths, caregivers and siblings.
  • Nutrition assistance for pregnant mothers and infants.
  • Preventive and income-generating activities that help address food insecurity long term.

Requests are pouring in from our frontline church partners around the world for food assistance for the children and families in their care. And based on current food security and global hunger forecasts, Compassion anticipates facing difficult food security issues for the next several years.

Our actions are our future! Please donate today to help families affected by the global food crisis.

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1 FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2019. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019. Safeguarding against economic slowdowns and downturns. Rome, FAO. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

2 Food Security and COVID-19. World Bank. (2021.).

3 Solutions to Food Insecurity - a background briefing. Tread Softly. (n.d.).

* In 2015, the World Bank began phasing out the term “developing world” in its publications and databases. The use of the developed countries and developing countries categories was “becoming less relevant” with the adoption of the SDG and its focus on targets for the entire world.