Feeding the Future: Hunger and Food Security in the Age of Climate Change

Each day 795 million people go hungry, according to the World Food Programme. The answer to the world hunger problem is obvious, right? We need to make more food.

Not quite, according to Clinical Professor of Public Service John Gershman. People often think that the challenge of food security is a production challenge. And this is partially true—the Food and Agricultural Association says we will need to produce 60% more food by 2050 in order to feed the world.

But this is an oversimplified version of the challenge we face. We already produce more than we can consume. The issue of hunger is not one of scarcity, but one of production efficiency. In North America and Oceania, 42% of the food available is lost or wasted at some point along the process. In the U.S., most of this food is lost on the retail end—it ends up getting tossed after spending too much time in supermarkets, restaurants, or fridges. In poorer countries, most food is lost during the farm or storage level, where farmers might not have the means to save crops in peril.

And this issue isn’t going to get better on its own. In the coming years, climate change will have disastrous effects on the land we now use for agriculture. The places where we have some of the greatest food challenges with very basic crops are the places where climate change will hit hardest.

Professor Gershman argues that hunger is not a technical problem—it’s a political problem. Look to Western Europe. After powerful political mobilization, the region faces very few hunger challenges.

Food security is a vibrant area for MPA candidates to make an impact. The hunger issue is one that links operations management, environmental sustainability, human rights, and productivity all within the food system. NYU Wagner students are uniquely prepared to tackle the issue, as well as develop and implement sustainable solutions.

Watch Professor Gershman's WAGTalk: