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Dr. Tori Hudson, Portland, Oregon, Blog Healthline Blog


I’ve been thinking about hunger lately. Hunger and hungry seems to best describe oh so many things that we yearn for/are hungry for… peace, love, safety, ethics, leadership, security, food, water (safe water), healthy air to breathe, adequate shelter, livelihood, job, purpose, health, spirituality, connectedness, community, communication, faith, honesty, nature, and… I know there are more. Each are deep human needs… I would assert, even human rights. But, for oh so too many of us humans on this planet, we still hunger for these basic things. Just focusing on food hunger, the most common kind of hunger we might read about, is daunting enough, but let’s start here.

Here are some essentials:

· One in 9 people go hungry each day around the world — that’s 821 million people — despite the fact that the world produces enough food to feed all 7.5 billion people.

· The Central African Republic remains the world’s hungriest country

· Slightly good news, although insufficient, the level of hunger in the world has decreased by 27% since 2000

And, you might not realize, that the circumstances in the U.S. are tragic as well:

1. In 2017, 40 million people struggled with hunger in the United States

2. The USDA defines "food insecurity" as the lack of access, at times, to enough food for all household members. In 2017, an estimated 15 million households were food Question mark in the clean, empty, white plate on the tablecloth. Starving people. Meal waiting concept. Top view.insecure.

3. In the U.S. hunger is caused by poverty and financial resources at both the national and local levels

4. 45 million Americans rely on stipends from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to buy food each month, according to the USDA. 2/3 of these benefits go to households with children.

5. 1 in 6 American children may not know where their next meal is coming from.

6. 22 million children in America rely on the free or reduced-price lunch they receive at school, but as many as 3 million children still aren’t getting the breakfast they need.

7. Children who experience food insecurity are at a higher risk of developing asthma, struggling with anxiety or depression, and performing poorly in school or physical activities.

8. 15% of families living in rural areas experience food insecurity, compared with 11.8% living in suburban and metropolitan areas.

9. People of color are disproportionately affected by higher risk of hunger. 22.5% of Black households and 18.5% of Latin/Hispanic households experienced food insecurity in 2018.

10. These 8 states have the highest rates of food insecurity in the United States: Mississippi (18.7%), Louisiana (18.3%), Alabama (18.1%), New Mexico (17.6%), Arkansas (17.5%), Kentucky (17.3%), Maine (16.4%), Oklahoma (15.2%).

11. In 2017, households with children had a substantially higher rate of food insecurity (15.7%) than those without children (10.1%).

(Resource: #1-#11 From

Experts point out there are 9 main causes of hunger:

1. Poverty

Poverty and hunger exist in a painfully vicious cycle: If you live in poverty, you often cannot afford food, let alone nutritious food, and thus face hunger. In addition, when you are hungry, it is difficult to procure more money when you are harmfully undernourished. When hunger looms, individuals and families sell off resources—livestock, tools, transportation…. And then buy cheap staples such as flour and corn which is insufficient nutritionally, without the fruits and vegetables and animal products they had before.

2. Food shortages

Over the past ten years, there are numerous hot spots around the world that are repeatedly affected by food shortages and food insecurity. And, one might not have to go half way around the world to find it. In your neighborhood, or a neighborhood or town nearby, individuals and families are suffering food shortages… perhaps not due to a drought or a war, but poverty, a lost job, other natural disaster, or illness that took away the income for food, and more. Climate variability and climate change are wreaking particular havoc on stable harvests due to droughts and floods and lost farmlands.

3. War & conflict

War and violent conflicts are amongst the most vicious causes of food insecurity. People are displaced from homes, livestock, gardens and farms. Due to abandoned agricultural fields and people, there are no crops, resulting in wild inflation and food that is available is not affordable to thousands to millions. South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and more can lead to over 65% of the population facing hunger.

4. Climate change

Some countries, while they may not be wracked by war, are frequently plagued by hunger due to droughts or floods. Too much or too little rainfall can destroy harvests or substantially reduce the amount of animal pasture available. According to the World Bank, it is estimated that climate change may push more than 100 million people into poverty over the next 10 years. Hurricanes, tornadoes, insufficient snowfall, rising temperatures, all affect farmland and harvests.

5. Poor nutrition

We’re not just talking about enough food, we are talking about food with adequate nutrition essential for health and life. Too often, poverty means you can gain access to just corn or wheat, which is missing critical amounts of protein, let alone good oils, vitamins and minerals. Poor nutrition means too little energy to procure other needed resources. And if you are a young child, or a pregnant woman, the consequences are even more dire.

6. Governmental Policy

Poor infrastructure, greed, corruption and lack of investment in local agriculture, are directly connected to hunger of a population. Political solutions can often prevent hunger, destruction of agricultural land and forced migration.

7. Economy

Economic stability—of an individual, a family and a country, prevents poverty and promotes nutritional and health resilience. On a large scale think about the Ebola outbreak in Liberia in 2014. It destabilized an already fragile economic situation, and now more than 15% of the country’s people do not know where their next meal is coming from. But you don’t have to go that far to understand the connection between economic stability and having enough money to buy food. Look at the family or woman or man living in a tent next to the freeway. While they all don’t get there via the same path, some are definitely there due to economics and either losing a decent paying job or not having enough money to stay sheltered and fed. It’s true, that some are there due to mental health and addiction issues – but where are our economic policies such that we can’t take better care of people with these life altering issues.

8. Food waste

It’s shocking, but 1/3 of all food produced is never consumed. And, that’s not even counting the natural resources utilized to waste all that food. Think, wasted water, greenhouse gases produced…. All wasted with the wasted food. And then there is just the aggravation and sadness of all this wasted food in one place, with another even right nearby, maybe even out the back door going hungry.

9. Gender inequality

There is a report from the UN that reveals that “if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.” Female farmers are responsible for growing, harvesting, preparing, and selling the majority of food in poor countries, yet they are underrepresented in developing policies and strategies to utilize resources well, and distribute resources fairly.

(Resource: Top 9 causes of hunger from )

Commentary: I and most of my patients have access to too much food and too much unhealthy food. We overeat sweets, we overeat starchy carbs, we overeat unhealthy fatty foods, well, we plain just overeat. And it doesn’t get easier—more grocery stores, more restaurants, more online ordering, more temptations…… We are suffering from another kind of hunger other than enough food, hoping for, or at least acting out, that we can satisfy that hunger with food. Better to figure out the hunger and make steps towards solving that hunger.

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