Ending Hunger in the United States
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2, Zero Hunger, aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.
Hunger is the leading cause of death in the world (Global Goals).
A healthy diet, consisting of fruits and vegetables and low in sugar and calorie-dense processed foods, is essential to health. The ability to eat a healthy diet is largely determined by one’s access to affordable, healthy foods — a consequence of the conditions and environment in which one lives (New England Journal of Medicine)
In the U.S. alone it's estimated that more than 35 million people struggled with hunger prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2020 that number has now risen to over 50 million (Feeding America).
Hunger in the U.S. can be linked with a range of other issues.
Disruptions in employment or a month of unexpected costs can push many families into having to decide between buying food or paying a bill. Poverty is a leading root cause of food insecurity in the U.S.
Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as 'a lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods' (USDA)
Food insecurity affects approximately 11% of U.S. households impacting 11 million children (X4Impact).
However, this problem is more common in Black, Latinx, and Native American households (USDA). It also disproportionately impacts rural areas, which make up 63% of all counties in the United State but 87% of counties with the highest rates of food insecurity (Feeding America)
Feeding America also estimates that the number of food-insecure seniors may grow to more than 8 million by 2050.
Food deserts are areas where access to affordable, healthy food options is extremely limited, or even nonexistent because of a lack of grocery stores in the area, or the distance to a store being too far for people to access easily (USDA).
As a result, people often rely on fast-food restaurants and gas stations.
Food insecurity across the country has risen significantly since the pandemic, Feeding America estimates that more than 54 million people in the country, including 18 million children are now impacted.
Additionally, nearly 30 million children in the United States qualified for free or reduced-cost lunches at school in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated food insecurity among children as schools have transitioned to virtual, remote learning (AAMC).
Undernourishment means that a person is not consuming enough food to meet their daily minimum calorie energy requirements, over a period of one year. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines hunger as being synonymous with chronic undernourishment.
Malnutrition can present as:
Undernutrition can be the result of short term (disease) or chronic (food insecurity) problems (WHO). It makes children in particular much more vulnerable to disease and death and
Overweight and Obesity - obesity significantly increases a person's risk for other diseases and health problems and can impact children and adults. In 2017, 14.3% of deaths in the U.S. were attributed to obesity (Our World in Data)
Micronutrient deficiencies - micronutrients are vitamins and minerals essential for physical and mental development. Lacking a proper amount of micronutrients is often referred to as 'hidden hunger' because the impacts of these deficiencies are not always visible.
The proportion of the population living in food deserts (SDG Tracker)
The proportion of the population living in food-insecure households (SDG Tracker)
The proportion of the population that is malnourished (this includes both underweight and overweight, and all age groups) (SDG Tracker)
Amount of food wasted per year (SDG Tracker)
$38.5 billion is currently being spent by nonprofits to address hunger in the United States each year. That breaks down to more than $3,000 per food-insecure household each year (X4Impact).
?$130.5 billion is lost each year due to illness-related costs caused by hunger and food insecurity (Iowa Food Bank)
$19.2 billion - the estimated value of the poor educational outcomes and lower lifetime earnings as a result of people experiencing hunger and food insecurity (Iowa Food Bank)
The impacts of not having enough to eat and/or not having enough nutritious food to eat can lead to increased health problems and associated costs for getting care.
Malnutrition, in particular, negatively impacts:
physical and mental development in children
resistance to disease in people of all ages
and general losses in productivity and potential
Over 50M people in the US benefit from addressing this problem. Technology solutions created to help to address some issues related to food insecurity, malnutrition, and hunger would benefit:
Food Banks, food pantries, and other hunger relief organizations
Food assistance programs
School lunch programs
Federal and State governments running food assistance programs
Hunger relief organizations and other nonprofits
Organizations working on underlying and related challenges like poverty and healthcare
Schools with meal programs
According to data aggregated by X4Impact from the Security and Exchange Commission filings, since Q1 of 2019, $700M of private funding has been invested in companies working to create tech-based solutions addressing hunger in the U.S.
In addition to that, there are government grants and the $38B in income reported by nonprofits working to alleviate hunger; approximately 90% of that money is deployed to serve individuals and families facing food insecurity.
Based on data from over 600,000 tax returns filed by nonprofits in the US (data via X4Impact), on an average year, over 8,700 nonprofit organizations deploy more than $38B in the US to address hunger-related issues.