Hunger Notes Basics: Understanding Global Hunger

Photo by USAID of student in a classroom

Hunger is not having enough nutritious food. To end global hunger, nutritious food needs to be affordable and available to everyone.

WHES has created several resources ideal for students, educators, and others looking for a general overview of global hunger.

As part of our Hunger Basics series, you you will find:

  • A fact Sheet
  • Explainer Video
  • Infographics
  • Quick Facts



 FACT SHEET: Understanding Global Hunger

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Read online using the navigation tools in the bottom left corner to advance the pages.

Understanding Global Hunger





VIDEO: Ask an Expert

In this short video, Steve Hansch, World Hunger Education Service board member, Hunger Notes author, and global health expert, explains global hunger, discusses a few causes, and tells you how to get involved in humanitarian work.



INFOGRAPHIC: Hunger at a Glance (2022)


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Defining Hunger

Hunger and food insecurity are the two main terms to describe and track global hunger.

Global hunger is about quality, not just quantity. It’s the long-term lack of the right kind of nutritious food.

Food Insecurity means not always having access to the food people need for a healthy life.

→ Moderate: Skipping meals occasionally.

Severe: Going days without food.

Acute: Sudden, urgent food shortages.


Hunger is not having the right kind of enough. When food is too expensive or unavailable, low-income families make hard choices about what they eat, or if they can eat at all.


The Real Cost of Eating Healthy

Globally, a nutritious diet costs about $3.33 a day. In regions of Africa where hunger is disproportionately the highest, people who live in extreme poverty ($2.15 a day) can’t afford a healthy diet.


Why Are People Hungry?

Consumer Behavior:  People’s food choices and their interactions with food production influence hunger. A growing demand for cheap processed foods changes what kind of food is produced. There are not enough available fruits and vegetables for a healthy diet in almost every region of the world. Unsustainable farming also reduces production, harms the environment, and heightens hunger

Climate Change:  Unpredictable weather, rising temperatures, and natural disasters disrupt farming and decrease nutrients in crops. Environmental degradation, floods, and droughts cause a reduction in the food supply and decrease land available to farm.

Conflict:  Wars displace people, disrupt the food supply and create vicious cycles of hunger and poverty. Conflict is both a cause and effect of hunger.

Poor Governance:  In countries with poor governance, institutions are weak and mismanaged, reducing the resources available for essential services like healthcare, education, and food distribution.

Poverty:  Low–income families, who spend the majority of their income on food, are vulnerable to higher prices and when supplies are low. People who live in extreme poverty can’t afford a healthy diet.

Inequality:  Gender discrimination is a leading cause of hunger. Inequality disproportionately increases hunger in all marginalized communities who have unequal access to power and resources, such as income, work, education, and land.


Everyone has a stake in ending global hunger, which has far-reaching effects on the safety and prosperity of the world.


Global Hunger’s Ripple Effect

Individual Impacts

Global hunger harms health, shortens lifespan, and perpetuates poverty. Malnutrition impairs children’s brain development and growth, limiting their future potential.

National Impacts

Hunger produces a less educated workforce, weakening national economies and fostering instability. Humanitarian crises, like mass migrations, cost billions globally without addressing the core issues of hunger.

Global Impacts

Hunger and instability compromise global safety, with conflicts potentially crossing borders and prompting migration. Disruptions in food supply can elevate food and fuel prices, causing inflation that affects every nation.



INFOGRAPHIC: The World’s Most Affected Regions

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The Road to Zero Hunger

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals provide a blueprint to end hunger by 2030.  

Some ways we can work to end hunger include:

  • Integrate peace building in conflict zones.
  •  Boost climate resilience.
  • Support the vulnerable.
  • Make nutritious foods affordable.
  • Address poverty and inequality.
  • Encourage healthy eating habits.


The Vision of a Hunger-Free World

It is possible to make nutritious food widely available and affordable to everyone.


Knowledge is the key to fighting hunger. By increasing our knowledge of what works and scaling up our actions to reduce hunger, we can end global hunger in our lifetime.




Bread for the World, The 2020 Hunger Report: Better Nutrition, Better Tomorrow

Feed the Future (website)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022.

The United Nations, The 17 Goals: Sustainable Development Goals (2023, website)

United States Agency for International Development, The Story Telling Hub (website)

The World Bank, Poverty. (2023, website)

World Food Programme: Drivers of Hunger (2023, website)

World Health Organization, World Health Statistics 2023: Monitoring Health for the SDGs



  • World Hunger Education
    P.O. Box 29015
    Washington, D.C. 20017
  • For the past 40 years, since its founding in 1976, the mission of World Hunger Education Service is to undertake programs, including Hunger Notes, that
    • Educate the general public and target groups about the extent and causes of hunger and malnutrition in the United States and the world
    • Advance comprehension which integrates ethical, religious, social, economic, political, and scientific perspectives on the world food problem
    • Facilitate communication and networking among those who are working for solutions
    • Promote individual and collective commitments to sustainable hunger solutions.