SDG 2: Zero Hunger
Have you ever been hungry? Really hungry? Not the pangs in the stomach when dinner is 30 minutes late but the energy sapping, mind numbing pain that comes when there is not enough food for days, weeks or months at a time. It is not something those of us who have grown up in relatively wealthy societies know about but the UN estimates that in 2014, 795 million people were chronically undernourished ‘often as a direct consequence of environmental degradation, drought and loss of biodiversity.’
SDG 2 is therefore critically important. Zero hunger aims to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture in all countries by the year 2030.
The facts1 paint a bleak picture:
- The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 per cent of the population is undernourished.
- Southern Asia faces the greatest hunger burden, with around 281 million undernourished people.
- Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 per cent) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.
But there is some good news! Over the past 15 years the fight against hunger has advanced with the prevalence of hunger falling from 15 per cent in 2002 to 11 per cent in 2016. However, more than 790 million people worldwide still lack access to adequate amounts of food and even if this rate of decrease continues for the next 15 years, the goal of zero hunger by 2030 will be missed greatly.
It is often said that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone, we just need to distribute it fairly. Yet ending hunger and malnutrition is not only about providing easy access to food for all people, it is also essential that this access is to nutritious food. More than 34 million children around the world are considered to suffer from malnutrition2, a completely preventable and treatable disease, which when not treated leads to death. In areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, most families cannot afford a balanced diet more than twice a week resulting in the region having one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world.3
Ending hunger and malnutrition also relies heavily on sustainable food production systems and agricultural practices. Agriculture is the world’s number one source of livelihood, with more than 40 per cent of the world’s population relying on it and more than 80 per cent of food consumed in developing countries originating from small farms. Recent trends in industrialisation, globalisation and commercialisation, however, are having profound effects on these small farms and ultimately reducing the availability of nutritious, easily accessible food in developing countries.
We may not be able to imagine what true hunger feels like but for much of the population this is their reality, every day. So next time your tummy rumbles use it as a reminder to cry out to God in prayer for those who are hungry and ask yourself ‘what can I do in the fight to end hunger, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture?’
- Psalm 24:1 says: ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.’ What does this verse mean? If all the food on earth belongs to God, how might this change how we buy, use and view food?
- James 2:15-17 reads: ‘Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’ Do you agree that sometimes we find obstacles, albeit unintentionally, to taking practical action? What sort of obstacles are these, e.g. a lack of funds or time? What do you think is the message that this bible verse is trying to convey?
- What action could your church or group take to live out the principles of Isaiah 58:6-7: ‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?’
- What changes might we see in our own lives if we adjust our attitudes towards food and to assisting others? How will our attitudes towards material things changes?
- Deuteronomy 10:18 says: ‘For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.’
- In Isaiah 58:6-7 we find: ‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?’
- Isaiah 65:17 and 20-22 says: ‘Behold I will create new heavens and a new earth…The sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people.’
- John 15:5 contains the words of Jesus: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’
- That a spirit of gratitude will be in those who have plentiful and nutritious food to eat; we thank God for a sufficient food supply in many areas of the world.
- Vision, optimism and wisdom for those with the power and influence to make the distribution of food fairer. May we see an end to hunger. May those working to improve people's lives experience a sense of hope and a determination to continue.
- Make an effort to buy food that has been produced locally or through sustainable food systems.
- Minimise food waste by making an effort not to throw out food and only buying what you need.
- Look out for those around you: cook for people in your community who you know can not afford food; donate food to shelters and food banks; set up or volunteer at a community garden; start a feeding programme in your local school and community group.
- If you are in a position to do so, sponsor a child or community in a developing country.