By Travis Decaminada
Key Takeaway: The pandemic has reportedly caused hunger to spike across the globe, with over 270 million people now at risk of malnutrition. The problem is not exclusive to developing countries; in the U.S, hunger is also allegedly trending higher with over 13 million children at risk in 2021.
According to the United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) the Covid-19 pandemic has had a startling impact on world hunger. Per the UNWFP, the number of “severely hungry” people has doubled during the pandemic with more than 270 million now at risk of starvation worldwide. The UNWFP Identifies several drivers of this problem in their report, including:
- Supply chain disruptions – The UNWFP reports that Covid-19 lockdowns have severely impacted “small-scale farmers, sellers, traders, shop owners and the like who move food through informal markets” making it difficult to grow, transport, and sell food. Moreover, quarantines and other restrictions have reportedly caused the price of food to spike in some regions, further decreasing access to the most in need.
- Economic upheaval – Reportedly, 500 million full time jobs were lost as a result of Covid-19, severely impacting lower- and lower-middle class families, pushing many deeper into poverty and hunger.
- A Lack of School meals – As many as 39 billion school meals may have gone unserved during the pandemic, for children who rely on these meals, oftentimes as their only meal of the day, this disruption can pose tremendous hardship.
- Pre-existing Conditions and Malnourishment – The UNWFP notes that individuals who were already near extreme poverty, the elderly, or those with health concerns were likely more impacted by Covid-19 than other individuals, with the pandemic exacerbating pre-existing problems.
In the United States
Per a report from Feeding America, hunger is not a problem exclusive to the developing world. The organization notes that as many as 42 million Americans, including 13 million children, may experience food insecurity in 2021. Similar to the UNWFP report, Feeding America also notes that those who were food-insecure before the pandemic likely were pushed even closer towards malnourishment over the past year and a half. Further, the organization found that racial disparities may also contribute to hunger, per their report:
Significant racial disparities in food insecurity which existed before COVID-19 remain in the wake of the pandemic. Feeding America projects that 21% of Black individuals (1 in 5) may experience food insecurity in 2021, compared to 11% of white individuals (1 in 9).
The full UNWFP report, “After One Year of COVID-19, What Lessons Have We Learned About Hunger?” can be found here.