Developing strategies to end hunger

Meeting the Challenge of a Food Cliff

What do a former U.S. Senator (Tom Daschle), an industry organization executive (Charlotte Hebebrand), a chief economist and former USDA Under Secretary (JB Penn), and two World Food Prize laureates (Pedro Sanchez, in 2002, and Jo Luck, who was Bread President David Beckmann's co-laureate in 2010) have in common? No, it’s not the beginning of a joke. Each of these people is serving on DuPont’s Advisory Committee on Agricultural Innovation and Productivity. They recently released a statement on how best to deal with what they are calling the “food cliff,” along the same lines as the “fiscal cliff” that is still very much on everyone’s mind.

The group says that a string of global fiscal and economic crises is drawing attention away from larger issues. This includes the food cliff, which is caused by a “perfect storm” of global challenges. These are: 

  • climate change and associated weather volatility, including droughts such as the 2012 U.S. drought, the worst in decades, and flooding in other parts of the world;
  • the burden of 870 million people who suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition, which kills more people each year than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS combined, and the need to feed a projected additional 2 billion people by the year 2050; and
  • resource depletion, caused by growing ever-increasing amounts of food in areas that are susceptible to weather volatility; this in turn leads to food market volatility.

Food and nutrition security is not typically at the top of the list for policy makers, but these factors mean that they should be. Breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition pays lifelong dividends in better education and less susceptibility to disease; it also strengthens national economies. U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) director general Graziano da Silva said it best: “If we don’t invest today, we will pay the price tomorrow.”

Jane Sebbi

Jane Sebbi is a farmer with 12 acres in Uganda. See our video, “Jane’s Beans,” here. Photo: Laura Elizabeth Pohl/ Bread for the World

We’re happy to see “food and nutrition security” replacing just “food security” in discussions. The momentum on nutrition in the past few years has been nothing short of remarkable. U.S. political leadership is particularly noteworthy – beginning with President Obama, who included the topic in his 2009 inaugural address and proposed a global pledge of $22 billion from G-8 leaders to help resolve the underlying causes of hunger, including $3.5 billion from the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a vocal champion of nutrition for pregnant women and children, launching the 1,000 Days Partnership with the government of Ireland to support the Scaling Up Nutrition movement and elevating nutrition’s role in U.S. development assistance in the Feed the Future and Global Health initiatives.

On June 10, 2013, Bread for the World Institute will host an international nutrition meeting during Bread’s biannual National Gathering. We hope to have participation from nearly all of the 33 SUN countries; the meeting is intended to help SUN countries advance their own national nutrition policies. Bread’s grassroots organizers will be in Washington, DC, for the Gathering, giving them the opportunity to learn about the latest developments in global nutrition and talk with U.S. government leaders, United Nations officials, and SUN country representatives.

After the June 10 meeting in Washington, DC, there will be a Hunger Summit later in the week in London, just before this year’s G-8 meeting  in Northern Ireland. We’ll be strongly advocating for a continued high level of funding and commitment to improved nutrition policies and programs.

 Scott Blog Pic Scott Bleggi is Bread for the World Institute's International Policy Analyst.


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