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Where does food come from?
Hunger and malnutrition
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Organic vs intensive farming methods
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You are what you eat - Hunger and malnutrition

You are what you eat

Key ideas

  • There are millions of people that have a poor diet which leads to malnutrition and then to poor growth in children and an increased risk of illness in all age groups
  • In many countries, the risk of famine and starvation remains very high
  • Food security is a basic human right but few governments are willing to guarantee that people have a good diet with sufficient food to stay healthy

Key questions

  • What are the causes of malnutrition?
  • Where is the problem of undernourishment most severe?
  • What factors affect food security?

Key concepts

  • Place
  • Space
  • Scale
  • Diversity

Although it is argued that the world as a whole is currently capable of feeding the seven billion people that inhabit the planet, there are huge inequalities in terms of both the quantity and quality of food available to individuals in different countries. Students need to understand the difference between starvation and malnutrition and the implications of these two different but sometimes related issues. The relatively difficult concept of ‘food security' underpins much of the debate that goes on at both national and global levels.

It is difficult to separate out the problems associated with food shortages and poor diet from the many other issues facing countries in mainly the developing world, for example conflict, trade, natural hazards, etc. In many countries where starvation and malnutrition are most common, there is a history of similar problems and in spite of the efforts made by both individual countries and the international aid community, the problems remain - countries in the Horn of Africa exemplify this situation (Ethiopia - November 2009: More than six million people were facing starvation). In the UK, fruit is left to rot on trees, crops are harvested then dumped and meat is used as a source of fuel in power stations. At the same time, people in developing countries continue to die of starvation and suffer from preventable diseases that cause ill health and an inability to work.




The food security Wordle introduces you to some of the complex language in this module. As a class take it in turns to chose a word up and choosing a word which they then explain to the rest of the class. Alternatively choose any three and then explain how they might be linked to each other.

Take this quote and write a short paragraph outlining your initial thoughts:

"A hungry world is a dangerous world. Without food, people have only three options: They riot, they emigrate or they die. None of these are acceptable options."
Head of the UN's World Food Program, May 2009



Where is the problem of undernourishment worse?

The spreadsheet undernourishment by country provides data which can be manipulated and mapped to provide a picture of differences between continents and within continents.

Download the maps of South America, Africa and Asia and use these to create choropleth maps to illustrate this data. Make sure to add a key to your maps.

Use your choropleth maps to compare the distribution of undernourishment in Africa, Asia and South America. How does this vary within and between these continents?

These two videos provide an excellent overview of the issues and many of the causes of hunger.

Watch both videos and take notes, then, in pairs or small groups, chose two out of the three tasks below to complete:

  • Design a poster on A2 size paper which gives an overview of the causes of hunger
  • Create a flow chart to illustrate some of the links between the causes of hunger
  • Record a two-minute video appeal which outlines in audio form the nature and underlying causes of this problem

For additional help download the document why are people hungry?



Food for thought

There is general agreement that there is more than enough food in the world to feed all the world's population and keep them healthy.

If you were offered three wishes by the genie in the bottle that allowed you to make sure everyone had enough food, what would you wish for? Write a short paragraph in answer to this question and then discuss your ideas as a class. Make a list of all the wishes suggested and then identify the three most poplar.

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