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Global Hunger Index

The International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, DC released it’s 2012 Global Hunger Index of 120 nations, which rated countries with individual scores from one to 100 with zero as the best score (no hunger) and 100 the worst. Determined by factors such as childhood mortality rates and the percentage of underweight children, the index is based on data from 2005 to 2010, the last year for which information is available.

The  report focuses particularly on the issue of ensuring sustainable food security under conditions of water, land, and energy stress. It concludes that demographic changes, rising incomes and subsequent changes in consumption patterns, climate change, persistent poverty and inadequate policies and institutions, are all placing serious pressure on natural resources.

These “changes in consumption patterns” are not spelled out in thorough detail. It is a missed opportunity to provide concrete solutions and suggestions to these individuals with rising incomes that would benefit others suffering from hunger and malnutrition. For example, it has been noted by scholars that eating animal products can cause hunger (Rifkin 1993; Webb 2010). Therefore, encouraging a societal shift in a diet based on more plant-based foods could help alleviate many of the problems the report seeks to highlight and change.

The report focuses on the need for better resource management. They see the trends in resource depletion troubling and put forth suggestions where “access to food, modern energy, and clean water improves significantly and ecosystem degradation is halted or reversed.” What is lost in many policy debates, often due to ties with big food and the agriculture industry, is how the decreased consumption of animal products would result in less pressure on our resources. Diets that include animal products use more land, water and oil than diets based mostly on plants (Deckers 2011).

The theme of this year’s report is the connection between hunger and pressures on land, water and fuel. That’s because the people who are most vulnerable to resource scarcity and degradation are also the most vulnerable to hunger. It is noted by us as well as other experts in the field that the connections between meat production and land losses (deforestation), water pollution and fossil fuels are vast and can’t be brushed under the rug and ignored.

Factory farming and animal consumption has been made implicit as a cause of health, food security, climate and hunger problems around the world. These links need to be addressed as a clear and present danger. Encouraging a move to a more plant-centered diet is a way to empower everyone to help overcome the many obstacles laid out in the report.

Resources:

Deckers, J. Does the  Consumption of Farmed Animal Products Cause Human Hunger? Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. 2011

Rifkin, J. Beyond Beef. The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture. New York, NY: Plume; 1993

Webb, P. Medium to Long-Run Implications of High Food Prices For Global Nutrition. Journal of Nutrition. 2010