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  • Malav Dave

There is a global food surplus, so why are millions of people still food insecure

There is a global food surplus for the first time in human history. With today’s technology and agricultural growth, we are capable of adequately feeding up to 10 billion people, yet 690 million people are undernourished and food insecure. This situation can be described as an example of an “artificial scarcity,” which is a social-economic condition where there is a deficit in said resource amongst the general population despite the presence of enough resources through adequate production.


With today’s technology and agricultural growth, we are capable of adequately feeding up to 10 billion people, yet 690 million people are undernourished and food insecure.

By 2050, the world’s population will exceed 10 billion people, putting extreme pressure on global food supply chains. It is estimated that a 70% increase in food production would be needed to sustain that population change if current models of distribution and food usage were to remain consistent. Climate change and decreases in natural resources will result in many more people and far fewer resources to feed them. Thus it is vital to identify critical problems in why food insecurity is so widely prevalent despite enough supply to go around.


Clearly, the problem doesn’t lie just in the ability to produce food. The problem lies in how available and accessible food is, with both factors determining a population’s food security. Food availability refers to sufficient amounts of nutritious food being ready for consumption and is affected by levels of local food production and distribution. Accessibility refers to acquiring and sustaining an adequate supply of nutritious food and can be affected by the affordability and allocation of food.


Clearly, the problem doesn’t lie just in the ability to produce food. The problem lies in how available and accessible food is, with both factors determining a population’s food security.

Food production and distribution capabilities vary by region and are mainly dependent on the availability of natural resources and how these resources are utilized. When comparing maps of food production versus food insecurity, we see a consistent pattern of unequal food distribution. On the surface level, we see the greatest production of crops, livestock, and seafood is in China, India, United States, and Russia. The highest proportion of food insecurity is concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which can be attributed to local food production capabilities and large population sizes, respectively.




One of the leading causes of this substandard food distribution is a lack of infrastructures such as transport routes and market access. In low-to-middle income countries, 16% of the population lacks access to food markets due to a lack of transportation or unaffordability to travel long distances. This limits their access to food and discourages local agricultural crop production since most of the food will be wasted and not yield any profit for the farmers. With a reduction in crop production, there will be higher demand than supply, which affects the market value and makes this resource more expensive and even more out of reach for vulnerable populations.


One of the leading causes of this substandard food distribution is a lack of infrastructures such as transport routes and market access.

Not only does a lack of infrastructure development prevent consumers from accessing food sources, but it is also disadvantageous to producers since poor transport leads to food wastage. Without efficient and fast transportation, perishable goods with a short shelf life spend most of their time in transport and thus get wasted. Additionally, a lack of proper storage conditions exacerbates the food wastage problem. For example, 30-40% of produce is wasted in India because of the inability to store and keep it fresh. This shortage further increases the price for consumers but does not increase the income or profit for the producers. In most cases, these producers are farmers who are already living socioeconomically disadvantaged, perpetuating the poverty and hunger cycle for both populations.


Without efficient and fast transportation, perishable goods with a short shelf life spend most of their time in transport and thus get wasted. Additionally, a lack of proper storage conditions exacerbates the food wastage problem.

These supply and demand considerations govern the false scarcity faced by underserved populations. Though there are enough resources on paper -- in this case, food -- political and socio-economic structures prevent the effective distribution of food. These structures, fueled by private ownership of capital, weak safety nets, and misplaced priorities, fail to fulfill the basic survival requirements of food (and water) for humanity. Political influences and private ownership also hurt producers, as seen recently in India through the Farmer Protests. By privatizing the market, essential safety nets were removed and further exacerbated the vulnerability faced by the farmers.


These structures, fueled by private ownership of capital, weak safety nets, and misplaced priorities, fail to fulfill the basic survival requirements of food (and water) for humanity.

Policy-based interventions are essential to increase food access and counteract this strain on supply and increase food access. Improving infrastructure to allow efficient, cheap, and accessible transport, as well as increasing storage for fresh produce, will prevent food wastage and post-harvest losses. An equitable transport system will also increase access to food markets, allowing underserved populations better access to food. Additionally, targeted improvements in the purchasing power of at-risk populations will decrease the gap in affordability of food. Incentivizing farmers and other marginalized producers to diversify crops will help ensure local access to nutritious food options. Local availability of variegated crops will also reduce food wastage since long transport times will be bypassed.


Lastly, encouraging discussions and increasing awareness of food insecurity, as we do at Million Meals Mission, is vital in battling this major issue. Here’s how you can help: please visit our pages on social media linked below and consider donating to us. By supporting us, you can help us provide nutritious meals to thousands of people in need.

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