Understanding Hunger

Hunger is a lot more complicated than our rumbling stomachs between meals. The following definitions, comprised by the International Food Policy Research Institute, shed some light on the topic.

 

Hunger is usually understood to refer to the distress associated with lack of sufficient calories. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines food deprivation, or undernourishment, as the consumption of too few calories to provide the minimum amount of dietary energy that each individual requires to live a healthy and productive life, given his or her sex, age, stature, and physical activity level.

Undernutrition goes beyond calories and signifies deficiencies in any or all of the following: energy, protein, or essential vitamins and minerals. Undernutrition is the result of inadequate intake of food in terms of either quantity or quality, poor utilization of nutrients due to infections or other illnesses, or a combination of these factors. These in turn are caused by a range of factors including household food insecurity; inadequate maternal health or childcare practices; or inadequate access to health services, safe water, and sanitation.

Malnutrition refers more broadly to both undernutrition (problems of deficiencies) and overnutrition (problems of unbalanced diets, such as consuming too many calories in relation to requirements with or without low intake of micronutrient-rich foods).

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The International Food Policy Research Institute has developed an index that ranks the status of hunger in 119 countries. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) allows the international community to gauge where hunger proves to be the greatest concern. It also allows us to monitor improvements over time. The GHI takes into consideration the following conditions: 

 

1. UNDERNOURISHMENT: the share of the population that is undernourished (that is, whose caloric intake is insufficient)

2. CHILD WASTING: the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (that is, who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition)

3. CHILD STUNTING: the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (that is, who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition)

4. CHILD MORTALITY: the mortality rate of children under the age of five (in part, a reflection of the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments)

Vulnerable populations, especially those stuck in poverty in each and every country, experience chronic hunger. Haiti and Malawi fall in the GHI's serious category.      

Check out the Global Hunger Index for more information. And then let's continue to provide solutions to feeding the hungry ... body and soul!