If you're reading this, it's likely you've heard about the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. In 2015, nearly 200 world leaders committed to work toward 17 SDGs in a collective effort to end extreme poverty and achieve sustainable growth. In particular, Goal 2 has the laudable benchmark of ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.
You might also know that October 16th was World Food Day, dedicated to raising awareness of world hunger. Now that the day has passed, you may have questions about how you can make a difference going forward in your daily life.
You may wonder what Sustainable Development Goal #2 and World Food Day have to do with you. What can YOU actually do to make sure that there is enough food for people who you don't know, living halfway around the world? It seems to be a little bit out of your ability to influence, doesn't it?
The fact is, it isn't a government or a coalition of nations that will achieve this alone. The ability is in your hands. You can provide meaningful help, if you care to.
Right now, we have enough food in the world to feed everyone, including the 925 million people who will go to bed hungry tonight. As I referenced in my last post on food waste, the problem is complicated -- food production, transport, policies, commerce and the disparity of resources from one part of the world to another all influence hunger.
It's true that massive amounts of waste and environmental impacts occur during industrial food production: this sector accounts for around 30 per cent of the world's total energy consumption and accounts for around 22 per cent of total Greenhouse Gas emissions according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
What we do in our homes - taken together - has a massive impact. If we make the choice to be sustainable consumers and to demand that the food we eat is produced sustainably, we can use the power of the market to influence production and distribution systems for the better. That's why the UN has also taken on Sustainable Consumption and Production as Sustainable Development Goal #12.
For example, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year while almost 1 billion people go undernourished and another 1 billion hungry. Overconsumption of food is detrimental to our health with over 2 billion people overweight or obese globally. And, the impacts on the environment of unsustainable production include land degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, overfishing and marine environment degradation.
All of these impacts cumulatively lessen the ability of the world's resources to supply food. If current rates of growth continue, the global population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050; it will take the equivalent of almost three planet earths to provide the resources necessary to sustain current lifestyles.
There are two important and high-impact ways that you can take charge. First, you can reduce your waste - buy what you need, not what you can't eat and will likely throw away, and reduce waste that will harm the environment, such as plastic and other non-biodegradables. And secondly, be mindful about what you buy, making the sustainable choice as often as possible, such as buying organic or Natural Agriculture, and diversifying your diet with more types of vegetables and less meat, which takes more natural resources to produce. Be informed and support food producers and suppliers who are making as little impact as possible on the environment.
Taking this problem on by being a responsible consumer, eating sustainably and making purchases from sustainable producers, has two immediately beneficial impacts: it sets an example for family and members of your community, and it makes a difference all on its own. You simply have to make the commitment and act upon it. It's never too late.