Vimlendra Sharan, the UN-FAO's Director of the Liaison Office for North America, joined Frank Sesno at The George Washington University on Sept. 28, to discuss new ideas and initiatives to feed an increasingly hungry planet. Here are five important things we learned:
1. Malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can lead to a lifetime of stunted growth — physically and mentally.
Children with stunted growth are not only stunted physically, but cognitively as well. Cognitive dysfunction from malnutrition is irreversible and leads to reduced school and work performance. UNICEF estimates that 150 million children around the world are affected by stunted growth. That is a large number of potential scientists, writers, artists, and leaders that society is losing due to this solvable problem.
2. 40% of food grown is wasted.
And that number doesn't even include food wasted post distribution. Food is lost on the field from inefficient harvesting, and damaged or lost during transit and on the market. We are growing enough food to feed 10 billion people, but we are only feeding 6 billion.
3. Increased temperature from climate change will affect crop efficiency.
Productivity of crops is expected to drop with warmer temperatures. Modern agriculture is a science, and the science of agriculture is changing with the climate. Currently, researchers are looking into genetically modifying some crops to become more drought resistant.
4. Conflict is the common denominator in hunger.
In areas where food insecurity prevails many times conflict is the barrier for transporting food. Marked shifts from conflicts between states to internal conflicts create obstacles within the country for food distribution, and political disputes can deny certain populations access to healthy food. Displacement from climate change will only further conflict in the future.
5. We have to reframe the hunger story.
Telling stories focused on hunger as a charitable act are getting old. Reframing the story of hunger on engaging characters that gather empathy from readers is more likely to have a real impact. Telling stories of economic loss from declines in productivity, stories of people fighting over rice starch because they can’t afford the real thing, and stories of local farmers and fishers directly effected by climate change has more of an effect than focusing on statistics.