In 2012, at the United Nations (UN) Conferences on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, world representatives created the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The purpose of creating SDGs was “to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world,” according to the UN Development Programme. There are 17 SDGs that the UN hopes to meet by 2030, the second of which is Zero Hunger.

Hunger is not caused by food shortage alone, but by a combination of natural, social, and political forces. Currently, natural resources that are necessary for human survival—like freshwater, the ocean, forests, soils, and more—are dwindling. Climate change is contributing to the degradation of precious resources, as severe weather events, like droughts, become more common and affect harvests, leading to less food for human consumption. Poverty and inequality are also two drivers of hunger, affecting who can buy food, as well as what kind of food, and how much, is available. Hunger is also a product of war and conflict. During periods of unrest, a country's economy and infrastructure can become severely damaged. This negatively affects civilian access to food by either driving up food prices, interfering with food production, or forcing people from their homes. Some governments and military groups have even used starvation as a war tactic, cutting off civilians from their food supply. In 2018, the UN declared this tactic a war crime.

With these problems in mind, the world needs sustainable solutions to adequately feed each person on the planet. Right now, there are around 815 million people who are hungry. This number is only expected to increase as the years go on; the UN estimates that two billion more people will be undernourished by 2050. The Zero Hunger SDG focuses on finding sustainable solutions to stop world hunger.

The goals of the Zero Hunger initiative are to end hunger and make sure that enough nutritious foods are available to people by 2030. Other aspects of the goal include ending all forms of malnutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture.

One environmental scientist that is working to alleviate world hunger is Jennifer Anne Burney. She is a National Geographic Explorer and associate professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California at San Diego. Concentrating on ensuring food security for the world as well as limiting climate change, Burney designs and uses technologies to improve food and nutrition security.

Sustainable Development Goal: Zero Hunger

People displaced from their homes because of war and conflict—as some of the migrants shown here in Rome, Italy, likely are—often are vulnerable to hunger.


the art and science of cultivating land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).


gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.

food security

access a person, family, or community has to healthy foods.


the need for food.


structures and facilities necessary for the functioning of a society, such as roads.


lack of a balanced diet.


available supply of materials, goods, or services. Resources can be natural or human.


dying from lack of food.


use of resources in such a manner that they will never be exhausted.

United Nations

international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.

war crime

severe acts of violence, violating international law, committed against civilians, enemies, prisoners of war, or others during an armed conflict.