Even though there is enough food produced in the world to feed every man, woman and child, more than 800 million people go hungry on a daily basis. While the vast majority of these undernourished people live in developing nations, there is a great number of individuals in OECD countries who suffer from chronic hunger.
In Greece, the population of people facing food insecurity are the socially vulnerable – poor single or large families, the unemployed, and people with health problems and/or disabilities. In the Municipality of Penteli, the Civil Protection Volunteer Organisation has taken the responsibility of implementing a food aid programme by collaborating with the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation and the Food Bank-Foundation to Fight Hunger. Since 2012, the Volunteer Organisation has reached more than 400 families in its mission to help socially vulnerable groups residing in Penteli, Nea Penteli and Melissia.
For the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, collaborating with other organisations in social welfare programmes is part of its wider goal of effecting positive change in Greece. In 2005 John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation was established to continue the benevolent legacy of John S. Latsis, the late Greek businessman and philanthropist after whom the organisation is named. John S. Latsis family, comprising of Henrietta Latsis, Marianna and Margarita Latsis, and son Dr Spiro Latsis, make up the Supervisory Board that helps oversee the Foundation’s operations.
Since its establishment, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation has sought to remain in sync with Greek’s social needs. The Foundation provides grants that prioritise citizens in need, with vulnerable groups qualifying for this status.
Understanding food insecurity
There are several definitions of the term food security, with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations describing it as a situation where people have access to nutritious and affordable food year-round to enjoy an active and healthy life. The reverse of food security – food insecurity – is a situation where individuals are unable to access adequate food as a result of many factors.
A number of reasons exist for food insecurity. Poverty is a major factor in that individuals lack the resources to purchase food. Poverty, when combined with other social and economic issues, is the driving force behind food insecurity. Other reasons for food insecurity include food distribution, environmental factors, and political-agricultural practices.
With an increasing global population, it is thought that food production might not meet the demand. Late 18th century writers warned that global population would exceed food growth capacity, but this theory has now been debunked. In several instances of famine in history, the famines were not a result of lack of food, but the lack of political will to step in and distribute food. The hunger crisis in Niger in 2005, for example, is a case where national media interest influenced the response to the hunger crisis. Promotion of political agendas is also another reason for food distribution issues, as evidenced by the US government’s decision to halt food shipment to North Korea in 2005 after a nuclear arms disagreement between the two nations.
Natural disasters cannot be discounted in the food insecurity discussion, as events like drought or flooding can affect the growth and supply of food. Climate change is believed to influence weather patterns, thus affecting food production, and other factors like soil pollution and desertification can affect food security.
The impact of food insecurity
At an individual level, lack of adequate food causes health issues in children and adults. The physical, emotional and physiological development of children is hampered when there isn’t enough healthy food. For adults, the emotional and physical distress brought by lack of food impairs the ability to work and provide for dependents and families. To a society, the food insecurity can bring conflict and political instability.
Helping fight food insecurity
Food aid programmes, implemented by the national government or by humanitarian groups and organisations, play a crucial role in reducing hunger. By stepping to provide food, these organisations save lives of people who would otherwise perish as a result of natural disaster or socioeconomic situation. And by making food aid initiatives a “going concern,” there is the potential to improve health and encourage communities to adopt better food security strategies that are essential to long-term development.