The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations World Food Programme, declaring that it wanted “to turn the eyes of the world toward the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger.” Those numbers are now greater than ever — and the dysfunctional global food system is largely to blame.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, around two billion people globally were experiencing food insecurity, and close to 750 million faced chronic or severe hunger. The health and economic crises that erupted in 2020 have made matters much worse, partly because of their impact on food supplies, but even more so because of increasing inequality and the loss of livelihoods among already vulnerable people.
This situation was, and is, preventable. The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include the eradication of hunger by 2030. This goal — SDG2 — is genuinely attainable: the world already produces enough food to meet the basic nutritional requirements of everyone on the planet. But the global food system was badly broken well before the pandemic. Much food production is unsustainable. Both food and monetary incomes are so unequally distributed that billions of people cannot afford a healthy and balanced diet. And global food corporations have skewed both production and distribution to the detriment of small farmers and final consumers.