16

The World Food Program USA claims that 345 million people around the world:

are experiencing the most severe levels of hunger including starvation. These are the people the U.N. World Food Programme aims to serve.

They cite their own Executive Director, David Beasley, as saying in 2021

ending hunger by 2030 would cost US$40 billion per year.

The same page claims that

"one meal costs the U.N. World Food Programme as little as $0.43 cents"

Are these estimates accurate?

17
  • 3
  • 5
  • 5
    Not that for me "feeding 345 million people one meal a day" and "ending hunger by 2030" are not the same thing at all. It's about the same as "give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; teach him how to fish, he'll eat forever".
    – jcaron
    Sep 23 at 12:00
  • 4
    @jcaron Notwithstanding how condescending the teach him how to fish proverb is (as if people have hunger because they don't know how to grow or catch food... more accurate would be provide him with the resources to fish), the real problem is that essentially all famines are associated with war or extreme political mismanagement. Considering wars are expensive, the cost of solving world hunger is negative.
    – gerrit
    Sep 25 at 14:36
  • 3
    Another way to word this is "is world peace achievable with $40B per year?" Without world peace, there can really never be an end to hunger.
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 2 at 12:04

1 Answer 1

4

Are these estimates accurate?

We should start by clearly stating: These are estimates. They are estimates based on economic models which are based on implicit and explicit assumptions to make them simpler. The only way to truly know if they are accurate is to empirically test them by spending US$40b every year as recommended, and seeing if it cures world hunger.

Failing that, we can look to see how different economists model the problem to see if the numbers are at least consistent with other estimates.

The Global Cost of Reaching a World Without Hunger: Investment Costs and Policy Action Opportunities is a paper that (a) makes an estimate of an approach they recommend, and (b) includes a review of the previous estimates.

They claim:

Ending hunger by 2030 is estimated to require US$39–50 billion annually until 2030.

So that is consistent with US$40b estimate, only with larger error bars.

Their Table 1 includes a summary of five different papers (from 2015-2017) - that make differing annual estimates to achieve different goals:

  • $US265b, to eliminate hunger and extreme poverty by 2030
  • $US52b, to reduce hunger to 5% by 2030
  • $US30b, to reduce hunger to 3% and improve nutrition by 2030
  • $US11b, to reduce hunger to 5% by 2030
  • $US7b, to reduce hunger to meet targets on anaemia, child stunting and wasting by 2025

It seems that the estimate given by David Beasley is in the same ballpark as a range of other estimates.

Meanwhile, Cost and Affordability of Preparing Basic Meal Around The World looks at the per meal price for a "Basic Plate" (as defined by the World Food Programme):

Such a meal would contain about one-third of an adult's daily energy requirement, and is not itself a healthy diet.

They conclude (in Table 2) that the global average cost per day (in 2017 USD) for one meal, using the most affordable items is $0.71, but climbs to up to $1.30 if you include meat.

So the US$0.43 per plate seems low compared to this estimate, but it is hard to say which is more accurate.

7
  • 4
    A big problem would be how to get the food to the people who need it. Much of the worst conditions are because they're under the thumb of some dictator who is going to take whatever they can. Sep 25 at 2:18
  • 5
    @LorenPechtel: I am aware of that, but not nearly to the same degree as economists specialising in World Hunger are aware of it. This paper includes a number of approaches (including educating women, improving soil, addressing plant diseases, small irrigation projects, etc.) to allow locals to feed themselves, rather than merely sending food and money into a country.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 25 at 6:42
  • 1
    It still doesn't work--the reality is that much of the aid that supposedly goes directly to the people is diverted with the reluctant cooperation of the people delivering it. Sep 25 at 15:02
  • 3
    @LorenPechtel: That seems like a cynical perspective; if you have evidence it is true, please post an answer showing the original claim is false.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 25 at 17:02
  • 1
    @LorenPechtel: if your position is that it is impossible to get food and/or resources to some populations at any price, then you are arguing $40b per year for x years is insufficient.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 25 at 23:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .