Two sides of the Global Food Crisis – Food Shortage vs. Food Wastage

There are two sides to the current world food crisis: with food shortages for hundreds of millions of people in developing counties resulting in widespread malnourishment with little or no access to food this is in stark contrast to the rise in affluent lifestyles and a free-flowing abundance in access to food.

The rise in population growth, now beyond 7 billion people, will only make this situation worse if things continue. At present 1 in 7 humans on Earth is chronically malnourished. As a starting point then, 1 billion people on the planet fall into this category.

At the other side of the world and at the opposite end of this problem we have food wastage in developed countries, which has never been higher. The abundance of food is matched by an abundance of waste. As mentioned on this blog previously, consumers in rich countries dispose of 220 million metric tons of food waste every year, equal to the entire food output of sub-Saharan Africa.

Food sustainability cannot be limited to the production of food alone: food consumption and the prevalence of food wastage is at the core of an unjust global food system.

The infographic below, produced in October last year draws attention to some of the links and relationships across countries and between individuals. Global problems of this magnitude can seem massively disempowering for many people when confronted by the dilemma of asking “what can I do about it?” in the face of global change that involves rich companies, business focused governments, vested interests and millions of people on the ground.

One answer, as the stats and images encourage us to think about, is to begin by making small changes in the places that we live every day: in our schools, in our homes and in the places that we work. Unless change has meaning at home, just like the struggle for human rights, it has little meaning anywhere.

Maybe now is the time, when thinking about challenging the different sides of the global food crisis, to start instead by asking ‘why not?’


Explore more on

  • Follow the hunger module for discussions on the geography of hunger, historical examples of famine and global reform
  • Stay tuned for our consumption animation which will be made available online soon!