Global Food Imbalance & Security

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  • 0:04 What is Food Imbalance?
  • 1:30 Food Imbalance Causes
  • 5:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson we'll be learning about the problem of food imbalance in developed versus developing countries. We'll explain how food mountains are affecting this problem as well as food scarcity and distributional inequality.

What Is Food Imbalance?

What do you do when you're hungry? You might check what's in your fridge first and then take a trip to the store to gather some extra ingredients. Upon entering any grocery store in America, Europe or other developed nation, you'll see a vast array of food. Green peppers piled on top of each other, bananas stacked high in paper crates and aisles of food towering overhead create a maze of nutrition. Most people in these nations live in a world of food security where people have little or no problem accessing food.

However, these beautiful mounds of produce come with a price. Despite a plethora of food being available down the street, many people in developed nations are unable to afford the bounty. Even with food assistance programs, over 12% of households in America lived in hunger in 2015, according to the World Hunger Education Service.

The imbalance of food security gets even greater when we turn to the global picture. In developing countries, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, large numbers of people live in a Phase 3 food insecurity crisis, where one in five households have large food consumption gaps and are in danger of famine. In 2016, over 14 million people in Yemen lived at or above a Phase 3 food insecurity, according to the Food Security Information Network.

Food Imbalance Causes

Clearly, there is a food imbalance in the world with millions of people starving while food is being thrown away in developed countries. Next, let's look at the some of the biggest causes of this inequality one at a time.

Food Mountains and Distributional Inequality

Have you ever played the game Candy Land? This popular children's game is set in a magical world made of out of candy, with lollipop woods and a gumdrop swamp. Although this tasty world is a fantasy, it's not too far off from the food mountains in developed nations. Food mountains are excess stores of food that are being purchased by the government from farmers and stored away for later use.

Developed through the common agricultural policy in Europe, these vast food stores were supposed to help improve food equality by creating a baseline price for goods and buying excess supply from farmers. However, this has driven farmers to expand their productivity to increase products as excess supply is bought by the government. This results in food being produced without demand and thus, incredible stores of unconsumed food. With times of food scarcity for so many in developing countries, the European Union stocks millions of tons of food in order to keep food prices from dropping.

These policies have led to distribution inequality of our food supply, which is where a few people have access to vast amounts of food and others go hungry. Specifically speaking, plenty of food exists to feed the world population, it is held in the hands of a relatively small number of populations while many experience food insecurity.

Food Waste

Even when food does make it to consumers, it doesn't always go to good use in developed nations. In America, 30%-40% of our food supply is disposed of as food waste. Consider for a moment what happens throughout the week after you've gone grocery shopping. Although food might make it into a meal one night, leftovers occasionally lay to waste in the fridge over the next week. Produce goes bad and ends up in the trash. But the food waste issue isn't just limited to home cooks. Restaurants and grocery stores are also part of the food waste problem. Imperfect fruits and vegetables may end up in a landfill if they don't make the cut for the produce section.

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