One in three couldn’t afford food year-round in 2020

Source: Down to Earth 

Relevance – The issue of health and hunger is one of the most fundamental issues. All aspects related to it must be considered to ensure a healthy life for the population.


The Covid 19 pandemic has raised poverty and decreased income levels across the globe. This has excluded almost 3 billion people from accessing a healthy diet.

  • The pandemic has brutally impacted the lives of common masses as incomes are decreasing while food prices are on the rise.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in its State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 report has tried to estimate the impact of pandemic on intake of a healthy diet by masses.
What is a healthy diet?
  • A healthy diet contains a balanced, diverse and appropriate selection of foods eaten over a period of time. 
  • It protects against malnutrition in all its forms, including non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Key Findings of the report:
  • The FAO report has quoted a study done in 63 low- and middle-income countries covering a population of 3.5 billion on changes in the income of people. It has extrapolated its impact on choice of diets.
  • The study found a significant dip in people’s affordability for healthy food due to a loss in income. It suggests that the pandemic led to an additional 141 million people being unable to afford a healthy diet in the countries studied.
    • The number of people unable to afford even half the cost of a healthy diet was also estimated to have risen from 43 per cent to 50 per cent.
    • This has resulted in healthy diets being out of reach of the world’s three billion people.
  • The primary reason for this is the loss of income. But food price rise has made the situation more acute. 
  • By the end of 2020, global consumer food prices were the highest in six years. In the first four months of 2021, they continued to rise.
  • FAO’s analysis shows that the cost of a healthy diet was 60 per cent more than a diet that just meets “requirements for essential nutrients”. 
    • It was almost five times as much as a diet that just meets “the minimum dietary energy needs through a starchy staple”.
  • Around 2.37 billion people couldn’t access adequate food in 2020. An increase of 320 million people in comparison to the 2019 figure. Or, one in three people in the world couldn’t access adequate food in 2020.
  • The overall decline in food intake has also increased hunger levels in 2020. In comparison to 2019, there were an additional 161 million people who faced hunger. Thus, the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating hunger by 2030 seems an impossible task.
  • Undernourishment due to the pandemic has impacted children the most. 
    • According to FAO, in 2020, 149 million children (under five years of age) will grow up stunted or too short for their age. Some 45 million children have been wasted, or do not have the right weight for their height.
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