World Food Day: What it is and why it’s more important than ever 

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Stefan Ellerbeck, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • World Food Day is an annual call to action by the United Nations on 16 October each year.
  • Almost one in ten people globally are undernourished, and more than 3 billion can’t afford a healthy diet, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  • Conflict, climate change and rising prices are all contributing to growing food insecurity around the world.
  • The FAO says governments should re-evaluate their support to agriculture to help improve sustainable production of more nutritious foods.

World Food Day, held this year on 16 October, is an annual reminder that food insecurity and malnourishment remain widespread and are poised to worsen thanks to a range of ongoing threats, including climate change, inflation, geopolitical conflict, and more.

Here’s what to know about World Food Day and why it’s more important than ever.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to help ensure global food security?

Two billion people in the world currently suffer from malnutrition and according to some estimates, we need 60% more food to feed the global population by 2050. Yet the agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand: 700 million of its workers currently live in poverty, and it is already responsible for 70% of the world’s water consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

New technologies could help our food systems become more sustainable and efficient, but unfortunately the agricultural sector has fallen behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption.

Launched in 2018, the Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose Platform is a large-scale partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food.

With research, increasing investments in new agriculture technologies and the integration of local and regional initiatives aimed at enhancing food security, the platform is working with over 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to leverage emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, inclusive and efficient.

Learn more about Innovation with a Purpose’s impact and contact us to see how you can get involved.

What is World Food Day and how did it get started?

World Food Day is marked on 16 October each year. It commemorates the founding of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. Hundreds of events and outreach activities around the world bring together governments, businesses, the public and the media to promote awareness and action for those suffering from hunger.

What is this year’s World Food Day theme?

This year’s theme is ‘Leave NO ONE behind’. The FAO says access to, and availability of, nutritious food is being increasingly impeded by the current global challenges. The problem is particularly acute for the 80% of people classified as ‘extreme poor’ who live in rural areas. They are the hardest hit by human-made and natural disasters. Some are also marginalized due to gender and ethnic origin.

Looking ahead to World Food Day the FAO says: “In the face of global crises, global solutions are needed more than ever. By aiming for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, we can transform agrifood systems and build forward better by implementing sustainable and holistic solutions that consider development in the long term, inclusive economic growth, and greater resilience.”

Why is World Food Day Important?

The human statistics are stark. Almost one in 10 people in the world are undernourished, according to the United Nations. Globally, around one in five children under the age of five were stunted in 2020, many as a result of inadequate nutrition. While a fifth of people in Africa faced hunger last year.

Projections suggest that 670 million people – 8% of the world’s population – will still be facing hunger in 2030. ”— FAO

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 report, says world hunger rose last year. It estimates that as many as 828 million people globally were affected by hunger in 2021. It says this reflects “exacerbated inequalities across and within countries due to an unequal pattern of economic recovery among countries and unrecovered income losses among those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The FAO also says projections suggest that 670 million people will still be facing hunger in 2030. That’s 8% of the world’s population – and the same number as when its 2030 Agenda was launched in 2015 – and despite the UN’s own Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ‘zero hunger’ by the end of this decade.

What is food insecurity and why is it growing?

The UN defines food security as when a person has “the physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The FAO report says 2.3 billion people globally were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021 – while 11.7% of the world’s population faced food insecurity at severe levels, a growing proportion reflecting a deteriorating situation. More than three billion people worldwide were unable to afford a healthy diet in 2020.

The UN says rising inflation, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and conflicts such as the one in Ukraine, have also caused dangerous food shortages for the world’s poorest people. It says Ukraine and the Russian Federation supply 30% and 20% of global wheat and maize exports respectively, as well as being leading exporters of fertilizers. At least 50 countries import around a third of their wheat from them, with many African and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) importing as much as 50%. The UN says the conflict has caused a sudden and sharp reduction in exports from Ukraine.

What is being done to tackle food insecurity and poor nutrition?

The FAO says now is the time for governments to re-evaluate their support to food and agriculture. It says globally this totalled an average of almost $630 billion per year from 2013-2018. However, the FAO says “the lion’s share of it is targeted to farmers individually, through trade and market policies and fiscal subsidies largely tied to production. Not only is much of this support market distorting, but it is not reaching many farmers, hurts the environment and does not promote the production of nutritious foods.”

The organization also points out that trade and market interventions can undermine the affordability and availability of nutritious, healthy foods. In many countries, subsidies focus on staple foods thereby discouraging less subsidized commodities such as fruit, vegetables and pulses. The FAO is therefore calling on public support to be repurposed to help people access more affordable nutritious foods.

The World Economic Forum estimates that 60% more food will be needed to feed the world by 2050. However, the global agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand. That’s why the Forum launched its Innovation with a Purpose platform in 2018. It’s a large-scale partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food. The platform is working with more than 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to leverage emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, inclusive and efficient.

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