Category Archives: Global Hunger

Grow plants, feed millions

Lettuce growing

New research suggests that if the desire was there, this country could grow food to feed over 700 million people — by focusing on plants. That could meet the needs of most of the world’s hungry population.

If U.S. farmers took all the land currently devoted to raising cattle, pigs and chickens and used it to grow plants instead, they could sustain more than twice as many people as they do now, according to a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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We show the UW the way

population-health-initiativeVegetarians of Washington has submitted a population-health-initiative-proposal to the University of Washington Population Health Initiative, which aims to bring together the research and resources of the UW and partners around the Puget Sound and beyond to improve the health and well-being of people around the world.

Funded by a gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Initiative will focus on three key areas: human health, environmental resiliency, and social and economic equity.

Our proposal outlines the benefits to human health, the environment, global hunger and other social justice aspects. We proposed that the Initiative look for ways to educate the medical profession, NGOs, policy makers, teachers, farmers and the general public about the importance of a plant-based diet, and how to go about making the necessary changes. Our key conclusion states:

The potential for improving health and saving human lives by encouraging the world to shift to a plant-based diet is enormous. The costs of this project are small, in comparison to the potential huge global savings in healthcare costs, not to mention the potential for saving the planet from climate change and many other environmental crises, and freeing up vast quantities of land and water for an ever-increasing population.

They will be considering all proposals in January 2017. We hope they step up to the plate!

Help the Hungry by Going Veg

Say No to Meat Book CoverThe following is an excerpt from our book, Say No to Meat, by Amanda Strombom and Stewart Rose, published by Healthy Living Publications.  This book includes answers to all the questions you may have about becoming a vegetarian, and is invaluable to new and existing vegetarians alike!

How can following a vegetarian diet help the hungry people of the world?

Let’s start with the agricultural facts of life. Farm animals function, in effect, as food factories in reverse; that is they give us less nutrition than they are fed. For instance, a cow will give us as beef only 10% of the protein and 4% of the calories it consumes. The rest is used by the cow to enable it to live and breathe throughout its lifetime. With 56 billion farm animals raised globally each year, you can see just how much food is being wasted. Wasting food by feeding it to farm animals fuels the global hunger crisis. With developing countries quickly changing from their traditional plant-centered diet to a western-style, meat-centered diet, it’s easy to see how hunger and malnutrition can spread. Many of these people live in countries which could feed themselves, but farmers, policy makers, and governments choose to feed crops to farm animals instead of people. The result is that they often need to import grain to feed their human population. This is expensive and drives up prices. A rising global population makes wasting food this way even more harmful.

Microsoft Word - Global Hunger additional illustrationRaising meat is just plain crazy. Growing crops to feed farm animals not only replaces inexpensive nutritional protein with expensive nutrition, but also reduces the total amount available for human consumption because so much is wasted by the animal.

America is addicted to meat. Our own meat habit is so prominent that, in America, 70 percent of all the corn and 80 percent of all the soybeans grown go to feed farm animals. Even one third of the fish caught in the world’s oceans are fed to farm animals. It’s so wasteful. If we want to feed the hungry in other lands, what sense does it make to waste it at home?

Vegetarian diets are the solution to global hunger, or at the very least the biggest part of it. With few exceptions, those countries with chronic hunger and malnutrition problems could feed themselves, if they would only stop taking their crops and feeding them to animals, and make them available for people instead. These countries would also save a lot of money since they would no longer need to pay for imported food.

Yes, the world’s population is rising quickly, and that puts pressure on global food supplies, but a vegetarian diet could easily support a world population much larger than today’s. With a rising population, the only sustainable way out of the global hunger crisis is by reducing meat consumption or becoming vegetarians.

Food for 3 Billion More!

africa 2006A new landmark study by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment looks into how to feed another 3 billion people, the expected increase in global population before it levels out. The food necessary for the extra 3 billion is “the diet gap” facing humanity.  As their report says, “Sustainably feeding people today and in the future is one of humanity’s grand challenges. Agriculture is the main source of water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and habitat loss, yet we need to grow more food.”

Many people are surprised to learn that most of the food we grow in America, and a substantial portion grown in other parts of the world, is used to feed farm animals instead of people. There are a lot of farm animals to feed too. In fact every year we raise 60 billion animals just for food. Then consider that cows, for instance, give us only 4% of all the calories they eat in the form of beef.

But what if we took the food currently fed to farm animals, and used it to feed people instead? This report shows that not only could we feed 3 billion more, we could actually feed 4 billion more people by using food in this more efficient way. The food for the extra billion would serve as a “safety net” when weather or pests create shortages. Raising food in this way would also have the least environmental impact. The report shows that while other measures would be helpful, nothing other than the vegetarian option even comes close to freeing up the extra amount of food needed. So, as with several other global challenges, the best solution is again a vegetarian solution.

Many people are interested in adopting a plant based diet in order to alleviate global hunger.  To learn more about the connection between raising animals and global hunger, please see our Global Hunger posting.

A Well Fed World – Interview

Dawn Moncrief - Executive Director of A Well-Fed World

Dawn Moncrief – Executive Director of A Well-Fed World

While giving thanks for all that we have over the upcoming holidays, many of us like to remember all those in the world who do not have enough to eat.  One organization which is working hard to promote a plant-based diet as a solution to global hunger is A Well-Fed World.  We contacted Dawn Moncrief, the executive director, to learn more about what they’re doing.

Tell us about A Well-Fed World.

A Well-Fed World is a hunger relief and animal protection organization based in Washington, DC. We chip away at two of the world’s most immense, unnecessary and unconscionable forms of suffering… the suffering of people from lack of food and the suffering of animals used as food.

We have a positive, practical and action-led approach that produces immediate assistance for those in need and structural change for lasting results.  Most directly, we raise funds for, partner with, and promote innovative, highly-effective projects that strengthen: (1) vegan feeding & farming programs, (2) farm animal care & rescue, and (3) pro-veg advocacy & community-building.  For the funding, our Sustainable Keys Global Grants program provides about 50 grants a year to projects in the U.S. and internationally.

We also produce and disseminate research that demonstrates the negative consequences of using animals for food on issues of global hunger and global warming. We’re developing new materials on the harm caused by Heifer International and “humane” meat.

I’m most excited about our Plants-4-Hunger campaign. It’s a direct alternative to Heifer International. It’s great for vegetarians/vegans to give AND receive. We choose four incredible vegan feeding programs and send 100% of all gift-donations to those groups. Details are at

Finally, we have a couple of fun grassroots campaigns. The PB&J Campaign encourages people to eat more peanut butter and less meat. The Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale raises more than $50,000 a year for a wide variety of vegan/animal organizations.

What motivated you to get involved with A Well-Fed World?

I was vegetarian since 19 because I cared about animals. I didn’t know the issues, just that eating animals hurt them, obviously enough. While I was in grad school for international relations, to work on global poverty issues, a friend introduced me to the concept of veganism.

You can imagine that I wasn’t very happy to have my pizza and ice cream threatened, so I was definitely going to research the issues. As I did, it became very clear that, in addition to the unconscionable animal suffering, the consumption and production of animal-based foods has dire consequences for the environment and food security.

Think tanks and policymakers would express concerns about the negative consequences of “livestock” on resource scarcity, pollution, land degradation and a host of other environmental problems (and now we have greenhouse gases too). But they wouldn’t advocate reducing meat consumption, even though it’s the most obvious and relatively easy way to reduce the pressure on the system.

Instead they would say that the problem is “demand-driven” and we must therefore figure out the best way to meet that demand and minimize the inherent harm in the system. Their “solutions” of choice are to increase technology and slow population growth. There are pros and cons to those areas, but regardless reducing consumption is a must for any viable solution. It’s not enough on its own, but it must be part of the equation.

So, that’s what I decided to focus on. I wrote my master’s thesis: “Rethinking Meat – Re-centering World Hunger Paradigms.”  Since about 2000, I worked on the hunger-meat connections as a part-time, information campaign. I was fortunate to spend some time on it while working as program director, then executive director, at the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM). In 2009, I founded A Well-Fed World as a spin-off, to work on the issues full-time and to add a program component to the information aspect.

Can you give us an overview of the size and scope of the global hunger problem?

The complexity, longevity, and immensity of global hunger is staggering. The numbers are unimaginably high. More than 24,000 people (mostly children) die EVERY day of hunger and hunger-related causes. That’s more than 1,000 EVERY hour.  This is just the norm. You don’t hear about this on the news because it is not “new.” This is the accepted baseline. When you hear news, it’s because there is a crisis, like in 2008, that increases the numbers and causes civil unrest.

Around 2000, when our population was around 5 billion, common numbers would be 1.2 billion people in extreme poverty, and other 1.2 billion in over-consuming “consumer” classes (the U.S., Europe, and other wealthy countries). The Worldwatch Institute had a publication about the “over-fed” and “under-fed.” It is actually the inspiration for a “well-fed” world.

Numbers today are touted as a great improvement, ONLY 868 million. But these are deceptively undercounted. The methods of counting have changed and then some people (mostly in China) have crossed the international poverty line of $1.25/day. Some have significantly improved, but others are just barely over the line. Still others (especially in Sub-Sahara Africa) have seen an increase in poverty. The successes have been very regional.

In regards to the $1.25 international poverty line, it’s not what a U.S. dollar could buy in a low-income country. As expected, the purchase power of the dollar is quite high in some areas. The poverty line is international, thus it is the equivalent of what $1.25 could buy in America. So, think about someone in America trying to pay for rent, utilities, medical care, and food on a $1.25/day. It’s impossible. Now factor in children.

If the poverty line was increased to the absurdly low $2/day, about half the global population (more than 3 billion people) would fall under it. That’s about 10x the population of the U.S. (about 314 million).

Remember, even with all the poverty in the U.S., we are still one of the wealthiest countries in the world and our population is relatively small. This makes it even more difficult for us to imagine the numbers. China has more than 1.3 billion, India more than 1.2 billion and the combined countries of Africa more than 1 billion. When the majority of their populations are impoverished, it’s a big deal globally.

Please explain the advantages a plant-strong diet for alleviation of global hunger.

In cold terms, animals are highly inefficient “converters” of food, energy, and natural resources. That is, animals consume much more food than they produce.  For example, eating 1,000 calories of meat can easily use more than 7,000 calories of protein-packed plant-based foods, plus the immense amount of natural resources used. This matters because by using more than their “fair share,” animal-based foods are a form of overconsumption and redistribution that exacerbate food scarcity, especially in low-income countries.  Live animals and animal-based foods are not only exported directly from low-income countries, vast amounts of staple foods are exported to be used as animal feed.

To be clear, we’re not saying if Americans eat 10% less meat, that food will somehow appear to feed hungry people in poor countries. Hunger is extremely complex, but the connections are tangible. High demand for resource- and food-intensive meat, increases the prices of staple foods more generally. Food is literally bid away from the poor because wealthy populations can pay more for it to be used as animal feed. It’s obviously more complicated, but the basic supply-and-demand principles are sound.

There are obvious differences in the amount of food consumed in low-, middle- and high-income countries. But the quantity in terms of “direct calories” consumed is far less important than the types of food when the “true caloric’ values are calculated. When staples foods are used as animal feed (so that 1,000 calories of meat equals 7,000 “true calories” of staples), the disparities are shockingly large.

Eating less meat and other animal-based products, takes pressure off the economic food system. It reduces demand for food in general, which allows for lower prices, thus increasing availability for the poorest of the poor. It also sets a positive example and provides moral authority to seek reductions in other countries.

Do you think that some of the global hunger organizations are starting to get the message? Are you optimistic for the future?

I don’t think big changes in food policy will stem from hunger relief organizations. We are starting to make some inroads with environmental groups, because of the extreme impact that raising animals for food has on the natural resources and even more so because of climate change.  With international institutions and think tanks, we see some positive movements, then fall backs. It’s very non-linear and it’s not clear that it’s an upward trend.

As far as actual consumption, global meat consumption is skyrocketing. It’s on trend to double over 50 years. With the year 2000 as a starting point of 5 billion people and 50 billion animals killed for food globally, we’re now at 7 billion people and 70 billion animals. Predictions are that we will need 60-70% more food for 2050 and 9 billion people.

On the upside, America is doing a little better. We decreased our consumption of animals from 10 billion a year to 9 billion. But we consume more meat per person than any other country, so there is much more we can do, and much more we need to do. If the U.S. public and policymakers were to make meat reduction a priority, it would have immense ripple effects globally.

My prediction is that we will not hit the expected numbers of meat consumption in 2050. Unfortunately, that’s because of environmental limitations and climate disruptions, not proactive diet change.

Gates Gets It!

Bill GatesAdd Microsoft founder and noted philanthropist, Bill Gates, to the list of leaders who understand that we can’t feed a growing and hungry population, in an environmentally sustainable way, on a meat-centered diet, especially when diet-related diseases now top the list worldwide.

According to Bill Gates, “meat consumption worldwide has doubled in the last 20 years. By 2030, the world will need millions of tons more meat than it does today. But raising meat takes a great deal of land and water and has a substantial environmental impact.” Gates cites the UN figures on the expected growth of meat (see chart).

Chart of Growth in Production to 2030 - side by side, new labels

So what’s his solution? Companies that produce vegan meats. Products that are delicious but that don’t use any animal products. Gates writes, “Put simply, there’s no way to produce enough meat for 9 billion people. We need more options for producing meat without depleting our resources. Over the past few years, I’ve come across a few companies that are doing pioneering work on innovations that give a glimpse into possible solutions. To be sure, it’s still very early, but the work these companies are doing makes me optimistic. I wanted to share with you a look at their work on creating alternatives to meat and eggs that are just as healthful, are produced more sustainably, and taste great.”

Gates says “fake meats get real” and writes about two companies in particular, “Food scientists are creating healthful plant-based alternatives that taste just like eggs, chicken, and other sources of protein. Companies like Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek Foods are experimenting with new ways to use heat and pressure to turn plants into foods that look and taste just like meat and eggs. I tasted Beyond Meat’s chicken alternative and was impressed. I couldn’t tell the difference between Beyond Meat and real chicken. Beyond Eggs, Hampton Creek Foods’ egg substitute, doesn’t contain the high cholesterol of real eggs.” Entrepreneurs take note that Gates considers fake meats a “big market opportunity.”

Gates’ foundation has also completed a major global study documenting various diseases. “Researchers released the results of a five-year project—funded by our foundation—to assess the prevalence of diseases, injuries and risk factors in 187 countries over a 20 year period—from 1990 to 2010. Known as the Global Burden of Disease 2010 (GBD), it is the most comprehensive study of its kind, and incorporates the work of hundreds of public health experts.” This study showed that along with the increase in global meat consumption comes an increase in diet-related diseases. For instance heart disease now tops the list of the most common diseases world-wide while stroke has moved to the number 3 position. Diabetes has also moved way up on the list.

The message seems clear. Plant foods constitute the most sustainable and healthy future of food. To take part in this cutting edge trend, you need no special technology or billions of dollars. Healthy eating is as close as your kitchen and natural food store and Vegetarians of Washington is here to help!

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