Is there enough food produced annually to provide a subsistence diet for the entire population of Earth? (Bonus points for data involving shelter, clothing or education.)

This question was inspired by this question.

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    If the intention of the question is "why wont we just share all our resources", it's important to consider that economy isn't static. If we do start a global communist economy then (very probably) economy will stagnate and there wont be so many resources. Mar 10, 2011 at 6:55
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    @Ophir: you can provide basic necessities to everyone without necessarily having a "communist" economy. In the US for example, poor people can get free food or shelter - and the US is certainly not commie.
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 10, 2011 at 9:21
  • The nobel prize winner Amartya Sen remarked famously, around 1980: "There is no lack of food; there is a lack of money to buy food." That is still true. Hell, we put food in the tanks of our cars. Mar 21, 2017 at 17:31
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    @OphirYoktan It is also important to consider that economy is not a zero-sum game. That is a common mistake scaring people away from targeting poverty (domestic and foreign, either way). "Oh, I would probably have to share and give away my wealth and comfort." Nobody (me included) wants to do that, so everybody looks away, guilty. But it's nonsense. The American Marshal Plan enabled Germany after the war to jump-start the economy. The results were phenomenal and extremely beneficial also for the U.S.! We could buy your stuff, and you could buy our stuff, and we all are happy. Mar 21, 2017 at 17:36

2 Answers 2


I would think so. According to the FAO, 152kg of food per capita were produced globally in 2007/20081, which equates to approximately 500gr of food per day - not a lot, but you could conceivably survive.

I don't think there is any need for research here, certainly yes (although most people would have a minimum of 1 set of clothes).

This year about 500 billion US$ will be spend on education worldwide2 - whereas, if we used our military budget3 for education we could add $1.61 trillion4 per year. I think this should cover more than enough the 36 million children in Africa that may not have access to education5.

1: http://www.fao.org/docrep/011/ai482e/ai482e01.htm
2: http://www.worldometers.info/education/
3: http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=wb-wdi&met=ms_mil_xpnd_gd_zs&tdim=true&dl=en&hl=en&q=global+military+spending
4: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=2.7%25+of+global+gdp
5: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Africa

  • I believe the food is enough, but due to global warming, food production is declining in the last years (I believe food production peaked at the end of the century) Mar 10, 2011 at 6:50
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    Ophir: 1) there is no "global warming" as you mean it. 2) any "global warming" as you mean it would mean increased food production as it means faster plat growth. 3) food production didn't "peak", it always has ups and downs due to seasonal changes, wars, etc.
    – jwenting
    Mar 10, 2011 at 9:02
  • Sklivvz: clothing "requirements" are tricky. REQUIRED clothing depends strongly on climate, and in many parts of the world is minimal or non-existent (a naked human being can be more comfortable than a clothed one in most enviroments with temperatures between about 20 and 35 degrees Celcius for example). Clothing therefore is mostly cultural and fashion (with some allowance for functional in case of people who need protective clothing for their work, like firefighters and people working in foundries).
    – jwenting
    Mar 10, 2011 at 9:05
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    @jwenting Perhaps you should look at the questions on this site regarding global warming if you think it isn't happening. Also, it is quite the claim to say that global warming will definitely mean increased food production given that it may cause droughts and shifts in weather patterns that would be detrimental to food production
    – Kevin
    Mar 21, 2017 at 15:59
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    @jwenting Funny that you contribute to a web site you don't seem to actually like. As a matter of fact I have looked at the scientific data, and no, not greenpeace publications
    – Kevin
    Mar 22, 2017 at 16:29

This question pops up all the time, fueled by the ever repeating Malthusian fables about impending disaster due to mass starvation unless the population of the planet is brought down to a fraction of what it currently is.

As is, there's no large scale lack of nutrition on the planet today (local catastrophes excluded, like people caught up temporarilly in natural disasters or wars). Thus, the planet is more than capable of feeding its current population (those areas where there is lack of food experience that because the local population doesn't put in the effort needed to produce it, not because that effort would be futile but because they don't think it a priority in comparison with (usually) killing each other). In fact, given the massive overproduction of foodstuff in parts of the world (especially the EU and US where agricultural policies cause farmers and processing industry to destroy produce rather than put it on the market so as not to cause food prices to collaps, and get paid for that by government subsidies) the world can feed a lot more people than exist on it today, even without resorting to more efficient ways of production (though those would certainly relieve a lot of people in especially Africa and Asia of backbreaking work as they're still tilling their fields in what are essentially medieval fashion).

That's for food. Clothing, as I commented earlier, is a non-essential item for the majority of the world's population when it comes to physical survival and even physical comfort. It can therefore essentially be excluded when calculating whether the earth is self supporting as obviously it is (I don't know of any large population group that involuntarilly goes without clothing when not forced to by other people rather than a real lack of it that they could be supplied with). Given that most people have access to far more clothing than they'll ever wear (especially in northern areas) only strengthens that conclusion.

Shelter is a bit more tricky, but has more or less the same answer. While there are people who are homeless, in some areas even large groups that are homeless, these people aren't homeless (permanently, sometimes temporarilly due to natural disasters) because of lack of resources but either because of economic reasons (they were evicted because they didn't pay rent or mortgage for example), out of choice (some people choose a life on the street), or because of being forced out of their homes by other humans for political or religious reasons (like the Cops in Egypt who're essentially being driven out of the country because of their religion right now).

Education is overrated. In large parts of the world education is learning to farm the land of your father, or to perform a trade or craft. That's all that's needed to survive, and all people get it from their parents where no schools are available. Thus education has been taken care of. If you're talking about organised schooling, there's more than enough resources available for that as well. Where it's not offered (or of poor quality) despite this it's because those resources are either wasted (EU, US, etc. are prime examples of massive waste of educational resources) or diverted to other things (Africa, parts of Asia, where often funding and resources earmarked for education end up in some bureaucrat's or dictator's Swiss bank account).

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    "World Hunger There are 925 million undernourished people in the world today. That means one in seven people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to the health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined." World Food Programme Mar 10, 2011 at 10:26
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    Do you have any sources for your opinions here jwenting? You are making some significant claims that seem to be totally opinion based, and on this site answers are supposed to be based on verifiable sources. The claims that need to be supported are: 1. "there's no large scale lack of nutrition" (as Ophir shows, this is highly dubious), 2. "clothing is a non-essential item for the majority of [people]", 3. people aren't homeless due to lack of resources, 4. "education is overrated", 5. all people get land from their parents that is sufficient for survival if they don't get education
    – Kevin
    Mar 21, 2017 at 16:06
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    @OphirYoktan I am not sure what your point is, but you are agreeing with jwenting here. Six out of seven people already have enough food, and most of the other seventh have somewhere close to enough, and that is with current high levels of waste and maldistribution. Current production levels are more than adequate to give everyone adequate food. Mar 22, 2017 at 21:55
  • "In large parts of the world education is learning to farm the land of your father, or to perform a trade or craft." -- I'd like to see you back this up with actual data, preferrably by capita, not per area. Over 50% of the world's population are living in cities and do not own any land...
    – DevSolar
    Sep 23, 2019 at 14:32

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