Our relationship to food is of course more than just social – it is crucial to our survival.
Think about the best meal you’ve ever had. What was the occasion? Who was eating with you? What was the dish?
For many of us, what comes to mind is not just the dish itself, but also a flood of important events and memories – once-in-a-lifetime celebrations, times with family and friends, holidays, a favorite childhood meal. You may remember learning to cook with a loved one, or a special ethnic dish that your family has made for generations. No matter where you are, food is woven into the traditions of every society.
Our relationship to food is of course more than just social – it is crucial to our survival. Yet despite being both a basic need and a vital cultural element, food is lacking for more than 820 million people around the world.
This goes beyond just “hunger,” which refers only to a physical sensation (i.e., the grumbling of an empty stomach). To accurately describe this pervasive and complex problem, most experts use the terms food security and insecurity. Food security is the ability to have consistent, reliable access to both a sufficient amount and variety of nutritious food. The inverse of this concept is food insecurity – a lack of consistent access to food or disruptions in eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations identifies these four main pillars of food security to help understand this problem:
- Availability: having enough food present and in stock to feed everyone.
- Access: having enough money to buy food when it is available.
- Utilization: the ability to consume a balanced and nourishing diet with enough variety of safe, quality food to keep a person healthy.
- Stability: having consistent access to food tomorrow, next week and next year without interruptions.
It is important to recognize that food security exists on a spectrum. Some families experience food insecurity frequently as part of everyday life, while some experience it in the face of a temporary situation, such as during an emergency. In these situations, how families are able to respond to food instability depends on how vulnerable they were already. Often, marginalized groups and those already in poverty feel these shocks most acutely.
World Renew’s mission is to bring systemic, generational change to these most vulnerable communities. Their holistic programs aim to transform struggling communities and help end the injustice that exists. In 2020, their community development programs reached 274,495 people in 1,254 communities. For over 60 years, World Renew has collaborated in communities with local partners and churches to provide hope and security to those in need. They are able to create change through their programs in community health, disaster response, economic opportunities, peace and justice – and food security and insecurity.
What causes food insecurity?
Food security is one of the most complex problems in the world because it is strongly interconnected with other environmental, political and social factors like poverty, agriculture production, the climate, infrastructure (i.e., water and sanitation), economic conditions, natural disasters and conflicts.
One of the best methods to tackle this problem is by tailoring solutions for the specific communities and addressing the root causes that create food insecurity in the first place. This forms the framework for how World Renew approaches this issue.
Agriculture and climate change
It may seem counterintuitive, but small farmers often struggle with food security, particularly in the most rural areas. Working with farmers has been an effective way to reduce poverty and ensure food security in many communities.
Problem: Extreme weather events have only increased in frequency because of climate change. Shifting weather patterns leave small farmers vulnerable by affecting crop yields and prices in the entire community – attacking both the amount of available product, and the market for the product. These issues do not affect all people and countries equally, however – the areas most at risk of climate-related impacts are also home to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. After extreme weather events, it may take longer to recover, which undermines sustainability and worsens inequality.
Solution: One way to increase resilience is through climate-sensitive solutions and sustainable farming methods. Tools, training and support can all increase yields and ensure that land will continue to be productive for the long term. Farmers with excess produce can sell these goods to pay for not only food, but also education, health care or other necessities. World Renew has worked with partners in communities around the world to help 210,000 farmers improve their practices, increasing their sustainability and food security. Here are some examples of their impact:
- World Renew is working with partners in Central America’s dry corridor – an area experiencing extreme weather with long periods of flooding followed by months of drought. They have helped farmers create almost 100 aquaponics systems – closed, soilless production systems that efficiently use resources to raise fish and grow vegetables. These systems on average yield a staggering 28 pounds of fish and 13 pounds of vegetables – a game-changer for those facing hunger or financial difficulty. Families can also help others in their community learn these best practices or create systems of their own, spreading the solution, lessening food insecurity, and increasing independence.
- In Kenya, World Renew has helped reach more than 6,000 farmers with training and sustainable agricultural techniques to help get the most out of drought-prone land. Proper irrigation and planting techniques are cost-effective, help make the most of limited resources (like water), and ensure the soil will stay nourished into the future.
Poverty, employment, and local and regional economic conditions are some of the largest factors affecting food security. It’s simple: Without money, a family cannot afford food even if it is available.
Problem: In some lower-income countries, economic markets may be more volatile with fluctuations in purchasing power or job stability. And existing inequalities mean economic growth alone doesn’t always solve the problem. For example, many women and girls don’t have a say in their family’s financial decisions. They might be the first to go without in their household, eating less or less often when food is unavailable – and sometimes even when it is.
Solution: Since income sources were disrupted for many people due to COVID-19, there is a growing number of vulnerable people. World Renew has met these evolving needs by assisting families with basic necessities like food, water and sanitation supplies. They have also been working to improve long-term economic opportunities:
- In Uganda, the Village Savings and Loan (VSLA) program helps members, 80% of whom are women, save money through weekly deposits. The funds are managed collectively and members can take out small loans from the group. Once loaned, funds can help members grow businesses in ways they could not afford to on their own. This added economic stability helps break the cycle of poverty and improve food security. This program allows women in particular to be in charge of their finances and ensure they are able to provide for themselves.
- World Renew also helps provide training and tools regarding money management and leadership. Individuals in groups like the VSLA may have little experience running businesses, so this curriculum can help them deal with issues that may arise.
Disasters and emergencies
Disasters and emergencies have always been one of the most sudden threats to food security. For low-income families, these disruptions can have long-lasting effects by causing displacement and worsening poverty because of disruptions in income sources, extra expenses and more.
COVID-19 in particular is a universal crisis, leaving almost no corner of the planet untouched – which affects how people buy, sell and produce food around the world. Unfortunately, it’s predicted that the amount of people facing food insecurity could rise dramatically due to COVID-19. Recognizing the potential impact on food insecurity and other vital areas, World Renew began adapting their work as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic began. Since they were already in many communities before the pandemic began, they were uniquely well-positioned to respond with supplies like food, water and hand sanitizer. As a result, they have been able to reach nearly 1 million people with vital support – and they aren’t stopping there.
- India’s current COVID-19 outbreak is worsening other problems that were evident in the country prior to the pandemic – namely, their overburdened health care system and the large share of their population living in extreme hunger. Knowing this, World Renew has been ramping up their response to the dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases. They are working in at least 23 communities in India providing immediate essentials like oxygen, food, medical supplies and cash assistance.
- Over the last year, World Renew has helped those affected by the explosion in Beirut and hurricanes Eta, Iota and Laura, just to name a few. As always, they stand at the ready to help at the onset of future disasters.
Conflicts and displaced individuals
Conflict destroys nearly everything in its path, destabilizing the normal way of life for those caught in the crossfire. Many are forced to flee from their homes – there are over 70 million people who are currently displaced worldwide.
Problem: Fleeing home doesn’t always mean safety. For many refugees, while they escape the conflict that put them at risk, they face many more challenges – like finding employment, housing and other necessities. For those who stay behind, once the infrastructure and economic stability are destroyed by conflict, it can be difficult to afford food even if it is available.
Solution: Immediate assistance like supplies is crucial. Providing agricultural training, cash assistance or vouchers when possible ensures that local markets are not undermined and families have the ability to make their own choices.
- The conflict in Syria has been ongoing on for close to a decade and millions have had to flee their homes. Those who have returned or never left are faced with poverty and food insecurity. Even those who fled to other countries like Lebanon face the same struggles. With partners, World Renew has been bringing food and hygiene kits to protect families. They have provided food baskets and food vouchers to 12,000 Syrian families since the conflict began, and they’re continuing to reach people with this vital support.
- World Renew also responded to assist Rohingya families displaced in Bangladesh by providing vital food support and food vouchers. They also provide support to families in the surrounding areas of Bangladesh who face high levels of poverty.
How can we help?
Tremendous progress has been made to increase the level of food security as a result of international efforts. World Renew itself has helped over 630,000 people attain better food security. While we have yet to see the full effects of COVID-19 on the hunger crisis, we know that with our best efforts, we can still meet the goal of ensuring ALL people have enough to eat.
Your support helps World Renew continue to provide these crucial programs tackling the root causes of food insecurity. Here’s how you can help:
- Make a direct impact on a family’s food security by providing tools, training and support to make sure families have enough to eat – as well as invest in the future.
- Check out World Renew’s website to read amazing stories about some of the families they have helped around the world – then spread the word and inspire others! The power of storytelling can’t be overstated in encouraging others to make a difference.
Reach out to us today for more information about partnering with World Renew.