While it’s often thought that conflict and natural disaster are the biggest drivers of undernourishment and malnutrition, chronic seasonal hunger is the most common cause. In his foreword to the book, Seasons of Hunger, economist Robert Chambers wrote that “seasonal hunger is the father of famine” and that “any development professional serious about poverty has…to be serious about seasonality.”
Ending seasonal hunger is not just about producing more food
Unlike others who experience famine, people suffering chronic seasonal hunger may have access to food, but lack an adequate supply or enough healthy food that supplies all the vitamins and minerals they need to function. As a result, they suffer from weak immune systems, and are more vulnerable to diseases and infections. Children who suffer from chronic hunger are particularly vulnerable, developing more slowly — both mentally and physically, their growth stunted.
The causes of seasonal hunger vary and include a lack of access to food, high food prices, lack of adequate long-term storage for food, environmental instability, and lack of diversified crops. The effects of seasonal hunger are also becoming more pronounced as the effects of climate change increase. A 2016 study estimated that the effects of climate change on food production could contribute to over 500,000 deaths per year by 2050.
What is Food Security?
“Food security” means that all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet their dietary needs for a productive and healthy life. Previously, it was believed that access to food was the only requirement for food security, but that perspective has changed over time to include four main pillars of food security.
These four pillars include: