Global Food Crisis

What Is Food Security?

Food security measures the availability of safe, healthy food and an individual’s ability to access it.

Conversely, food insecurity is when safe, healthy food isn’t available or when individuals aren’t able to access it.

Food security isn’t just about having enough food to eat — it extends to the nutritional quality of the food and its effect in promoting a healthy life.

According to the United Nations' Committee on World Food Security, a person is food secure only when he or she has regular access to enough safe and nutritious food to remain healthy and lead an active life.

What Are the Components of Food Security?

There are many definitions of food security. The World Food Programme defines it in four components: availability, access, utilization and stability.

  1. Food availability is whether or not food is actually present for people to access. It includes elements of food systems and production, reserves, markets and transportation.
  2. Then, if food is available, do families and households have the ability to take advantage of it? That is food access.
  3. Utilization addresses whether or not people have adequate food consumption to meet their nutritional needs and sustain their energy. Good utilization is the result of good care and feeding practices, food safety and preparation, dietary diversity and healthy distribution of food within families.
  4. Finally, stability is when the first three elements are consistently met. Environmental, economic, social and political factors can all be a sources of instability that contribute to food insecurity.

Why Is Food Security Important?

Food security is important because, when people lack access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, they suffer deficiency-related malnutrition that harms their well-being and development.

If a child's food intake doesn’t give them the nutrition needed for healthy early childhood development, acute and long-term consequences, such as wasting and stunting, can result.

  • Low weight-for-height is known as wasting. It is an acute condition primarily associated with recent and severe weight loss.
  • Low height-for-age is known as stunting. It is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition.

45 Million
under 5 years of age suffer from wasting

149 Million
under age 5 are stunted

2 in 3
lack the minimum diverse diet needed for optimum development

Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization (New York)

What is the State of Global Food Security and Nutrition Today?

Tragically, the prevalence of hunger around the world is currently at an all-time high. The statistics are grim. According to the latest edition of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) annual report titled The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World

  • As many as 828 millionpeople were affected by hunger in 2021 — 46 million people more from 2020 and 150 million more from 2019.
  • Hunger rose in 2021, to 9.8% of the world population. This compares with 8% in 2019 and 9.3% in 2020.
  • Around 2.3 billion people in the world (29.3%) were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021 — 350 million more compared to before the COVID 19 pandemic.
  • Nearly 924 million people (11.7% of the global population) faced food insecurity at severe levels in 2021, an increase of 207 million in two years.
  • The gender equality gap in food insecurity, a serious human rights issue, continued to rise in 2021 — 31.9% of women in the world were moderately or severely food insecure, compared to 27.6% of men. This is a gap in of more than 4 percentage points, compared with 3 percentage points in 2020.
  • Almost 3.1 billion people could not afford to meet their dietary needs in 2020, up 112 million from 2019. This reflects the effects of inflation on consumer food prices, which stem from the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact.
  • An estimated 45 million children under the age of 5 were suffering from wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition, which increases children’s risk of death by up to 12 times. Furthermore, 149 million children under the age of 5 had stunted growth and development due to a chronic lack of essential nutrients in their diets.
  • Of great concern, two in three children are not fed the minimum diverse diet they need to grow and develop to their full potential.

Projections are that nearly 670 million people (8% of the world population) will still be facing hunger in 2030 — even if a global economic recovery is taken into consideration.

What Is Causing the Global Food Crisis?

A cluster of recent global adversities has led to the current food crisis:

  • The pandemic and its consequences started the downward spiral toward alarming global food insecurity. This caused household level incomes to drop and disrupted supply chains, leading to food shortages and economic shock.
  • The climate emergency is another driver of global hunger. According to the United Nations, 1.7 billion people have been affected by extreme weather and natural disasters over the past decade.
  • Regional conflicts, such as the civil unrest in Haiti and Ethiopia’s Tigray region, are both a cause and effect of hunger.
  • The war in Ukraine disrupts grain and cooking oil exports from the country, which much of the world relies on. It also disrupts the production of fertilizer, a primary export of Russia and Belarus, which affects global agricultural production.
“Children are threatened by a lifetime of stunting; millions of women and children will become malnourished; girls will be pulled from school and forced to work or get married; and families will embark on dangerous journeys across continents, just to survive.”
— Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations

What is the Relationship Between Biodiversity and Food Security?

Biodiversity refers to diversity among plant and animal species in an environment. Biodiversity specifically in food and agriculture is critical to food supply and sustainable development for future generations.

It serves many functions that are vital to food production and agricultural-based livelihoods, such as

  • Creating and maintaining productive soils.
  • Pollinating plants.
  • Controlling pests.
  • Providing a healthy habitat for wildlife, such as fish and other animal food sources.
  • Biodiversity also makes production systems and livelihoods more resilient to economic and climate challenges. It is a key resource in efforts to increase food production while limiting negative environmental impacts.

    Diversifying production systems, for example, by using multiple species, breeds or varieties helps to promote resilience, improve livelihoods and support food security and nutrition.

What’s the Relationship Between Food Security and Extreme Poverty?

People live in extreme poverty when they cannot meet their basic needs for shelter, health and food. The most common measure of this is the poverty line, the minimum income level below which a person or family struggles to survive.

The World Bank establishes the economic definition of extreme poverty as living on less than $2.15 a day.

Since 2020, extreme poverty has only risen due to the disruption caused by the pandemic combined with the effects of conflict and climate change.

Families living below the extreme poverty line are often unable to feed themselves because of food security issues.

According to the World Bank, while a typical person in a high-income country spends about 25% of their resources on food, that percentage for a person in a low-income country is about 66%.

Recent soaring global inflation is especially devastating for families living in extreme poverty. While families in high-income countries experience discomfort from higher prices at grocery stores, families in low-income countries experience a complete lack of economic access to the food they need for their well-being.

Most people caught in the world hunger battle live in poverty in Asia and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, where inequality and environmental conditions, such as long-term drought, contribute to very low food security.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2022 report on the world’s food security and nutrition:

  • 761.5 million* people globally are living with hunger.
  • 424.5 million* people in Asia are living with hunger.
  • 278 million* people in Africa are living with hunger.

*values based on the middle of the projected range

What is the Global Food Security Act?

The U.S. Congress signed the Global Food Security Act into law in 2016. The law was extended by Congress in 2017 for another five years.

The law authorizes a comprehensive, strategic approach for United States foreign assistance to developing countries to help end hunger. The law’s goals include:

  • Reduce global poverty and hunger.
  • Achieve food security and improved nutrition.
  • Promote inclusive, sustainable agricultural-led economic growth.
  • Improve nutritional outcomes, especially for women and children.
  • Build resilience among vulnerable populations.

A new bill to extend the act beyond 2022 was introduced in August 2022 for Congress’ consideration.

How Does Compassion International Address Food Insecurity?

Based on current global food crisis and hunger forecasts, Compassion anticipates an exceptionally critical, widespread need among the children and families in our care for both short-term and long-term food security interventions.

In the short term, Compassion provides food packages and/or cash transfers to families with low household food security.

Compassion supports long-term food access sustainability by equipping families in rural areas with seeds, fertilizer, livestock and training on how to build and maintain home gardens as well as how to increase harvests through small family farming efforts.

Caregivers and youths in urban areas receive income-generation training and opportunities to earn a sustainable living, improving economic access and addressing financial causes of food insecurity.

Our local church partners distribute supplies and training, which means aid is delivered by neighbors to neighbors. When help arrives, it’s a familiar face at the door.

Compassion’s local church partners provide routine health care and screenings for children so they can respond immediately to new or developing nutritional needs. Churches also use mobile money transfers to send cash directly to families. It’s a secure, discrete, cost-effective and dignified way to get food assistance to those who urgently need it.

These initiatives help families return to normal so children can experience healthy development and thrive in their God-given potential.

Join other food heroes to address life-threatening hunger needs caused by the global food crisis and to provide

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

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

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1 FAO. 2002. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2001. Rome.

2 FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2020. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020. Transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets. Rome, FAO.

3 United Nations. 1975. Report of the World Food Conference, Rome 5-16 November 1974. New York.

4 1983. World Food Security: a Reappraisal of the Concepts and Approaches. Director General’s Report. Rome.

5 World Bank. 1986. Poverty and Hunger: Issues and Options for Food Security in Developing Countries. Washington, D.C.

6 1996. Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action. World Food Summit 13-17 November 1996. Rome.

7, International Food Policy Research Institute,


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