THE BURDEN OF FOOD INSECURITY AND MALNUTRITION
2 billion people did not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food in 2019
28.2 percent of children under five were undernourished in 2019
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. However, in 2019, 25.9 percent of the world population did not have regular access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food, and chronic and acute malnutrition were still affecting 190 million children. The world is not on track to achieve the World Health Assembly (WHA) targets on maternal, infant and young child nutrition by 2025, nor the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) on "Zero Hunger" by 2030. These figures show that food insecurity and malnutrition are huge challenges, which are likely to worsen due to COVID-19.
Poor diets and resulting malnutrition are not simply a matter of personal choice. Most people cannot access or afford healthy, diverse, quality and nutritious food, as shown in the 2020 SOFI report. Healthy diets are unaffordable to 3 billion people worldwide.
Food systems are not always able to deliver healthy and sustainable diets. This is true in food systems that do not support productive livelihoods and diverse production. As the 2020 Global Nutrition Report shows, "existing agriculture systems are largely focused on an overabundance of staple grains like rice wheat and maize, rather than producing a broader range of more diverse and healthier foods, like fruits, nuts and vegetables". This is also particularly true in current food systems that rely mainly on industrial agriculture (highly dependent on chemical input, standardized seeds or genetically modified organisms). According to IPES-food, "the pathway offered by industrial agriculture [...], combined with well-functioning trading systems that allow a variety of different foodstuffs to be accessible to consumers in a given place. The diversity of produce delivered by international trade has mainly benefited wealthy consumers in high-income countries, while poor people in low-income countries continue to be unable to afford the diversity available on these markets."
Many small-scale farmers cannot access healthy and sustainable diets given remote location, low income, and lack of linkages to sources of diverse foods. They do not have the means to face an unfair competition from heavily subsidized (hence cheap on the market) food exports from industrial food systems from the Global North. This obstacle to the development of local food chains threatens the right to food and nutrition of small-scale producers.