ACROSS AMERICA — Food is seen as a basic human right, yet the coronavirus pandemic has caused an unprecedented spike in hunger, affecting families right here in YOUR PATCH as well as others living in the far corners of the world.
In 2019, almost 690 million people around the world went hungry, an increase of 10 million people from 2018, according to the United Nations’ global State of Food Security and Nutrition report. Of the 2019 total, 35 million were in the United States.
The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated hunger.
The level of hunger in U.S. households almost tripled between 2019 and August of this year, according to an analysis of data from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While it’s too soon to assess the full impact of coronavirus lockdowns and other containment measures, the United Nations report estimates that at minimum, another 83 million people — and possibly as many as 132 million — may go hungry in 2020.
To spur collective action among its 150 member countries and draw attention to the sheer number of people suffering from chronic hunger, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations created World Food Day. First celebrated in 1979, the day is observed annually on Oct. 16.
In honor of World Food Day, here are some key things to know about the day, food insecurity in the United States, and how you can help.
World Food Day adopts a different theme each year to highlight where work needs to be done.
Each year, World Food Day selects a theme, which often focuses on agriculture and the important role it plays in the food system. In previous years, themes have focused on climate change, family farming and food prices, among others.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire global food system and laid bare its fragility. Border closures, trade restrictions and confinement measures have disrupted domestic and international food supply chains, according to the FAO website, ultimately reducing access to healthy and safe diets.
This year’s theme is “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together.” The theme is a “call for global solidarity” to help those affected recover from the coronavirus crisis. It also calls for using the pandemic as an opportunity to build a more resilient and robust food system.
If our food systems are not transformed, undernourishment and malnutrition will greatly increase by 2050.
Malnutrition in all its forms — undernutrition, micronutrient
deficiencies, as well as overweight and obesity — takes an estimated $3.5 trillion toll on the global economy each year.
Additionally, a combination of poor diets and sedentary lifestyles has led to soaring obesity rates, not only in developed countries but also low-income countries, where hunger and obesity often coexist. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 42 percent of Americans are considered obese.
The FAO estimates undernourishment and malnutrition will only accelerate if income inequality, employment or access to basic services continue to deteriorate.
Events are planned each year to commemorate World Food Day.
A large number of annual events are organized in United Nations member countries to recognize World Food Day. Events range from marathons, hunger marches and exhibitions to cultural performances, contests and concerts.
This year, however, many events have moved online due the pandemic.
See a full map of World Food Day events here.
If no events are happening nearby, join the #WorldFoodDay conversation on social media by sharing any of the free material available on the World Food Day website. You can also express appreciation to #FoodHeroes online — those who, throughout the crisis, have made sure that food makes its way to local tables.
There are several ways you can help fight hunger.
Here are some tips and suggestions on how you can fight hunger and help support World Food Day’s mission, according to the event website:
Choose a healthy, diverse diet: A healthy diet contributes to a healthy life. When we choose to eat diverse foods, we encourage a variety of foods to be produced. This is not only healthier for our bodies but also healthier for soils and our environment.
Choose local: Whenever you can, support small farmers in your community by buying locally grown, fresh food.
Choose seasonal: Buying in-season produce actually reduces your carbon footprint. Out-of-season food has to be imported and travel a long way before it arrives at your local market.
Grow food at home: If you have a green space at home, access to a garden, or a balcony with space for plant pots, you can learn how to grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Respect food: To reduce food loss and waste, learning how to store uneaten food properly for use as another day’s meal.
Support food-related businesses and retailers: Doing this can make healthy food options more enticing, available and accessible. It also helps provide employment opportunities.
Fight local hunger by volunteering: Look for opportunities at your local food pantry or community kitchen.
Donate to your local food pantry: Most food banks keep a list of items that clients regularly need, and others accept personal care and household items, which aren’t covered by food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP.
Find your local food bank
Patch has partnered with Feeding America to help raise awareness on behalf of the millions of Americans facing hunger. Feeding America, which supports 200 food banks across the country, estimates that in 2020, more than 54 million Americans will not have enough nutritious food to eat due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a Patch social good project; Feeding America receives 100 percent of donations. Find out how you can donate in your community or find a food pantry near you.