People shouldn’t go hungry.
 
Not because of someone’s hopeful wish, but because the world produces enough calories to go around. Each day, farmers grow 2,800 calories per person on the planet, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). That’s enough to surpass the recommended intake of 2,100 daily calories per person—and enough to support a population inching toward nine billion, and then ten billion.
 
So why do 805 million people still have too little to eat? To start with, it’s important to understand the difference between hunger and undernourishment.
 
People all over the world go hungry, even for just a few hours, when they don’t have enough to eat. Hunger is a physical condition marked by stomach pangs and general fatigue.
 
Undernourishment is a more chronic condition than hunger. Undernourishment affects communities, and even entire countries and regions.
 
Measuring Undernourishment
 
Each year, the FAO measures undernourishment around the world.
 
“What we try to do is come up with a comprehensive picture of food insecurity,” says FAO economist Josef Schmidhuber.
 
The process is never simple. In countries most at need, development agencies find it hard to get food in and data out. Food often doesn’t get to the people who need it. Some of these people are isolated in rural communities, while others live in politically unstable countries or areas ravaged by natural disasters.
 
Africa has the highest rate of undernourishment. In the Central African Republic, where 38 percent of people are undernourished, an ongoing civil war has led to widespread displacement, which leads to disruptions in the food supply and distribution. The culprit in Zambia (48 percent undernourished) is infrastructure: Less than 20 percent of the population has access to a durable road.
 
Asia has the most undernourished people. According to FAO researchers, parts of Africa and Asia are plagued by a lack of income, poor agricultural development and few social safety nets. North Korea may be the best example of a country with a political climate that limits trade and food aid.
 
No country has it worse than Haiti, however. Even though the Western Hemisphere has almost uniformly reduced undernourishment over the past 20 years, the island nation has been relentlessly attacked by natural hazards and political instability. An earthquake in 2010, followed by several hurricanes in 2012 and a drought in 2014 have limited Haiti’s capacity to nourish its population.
 
There is some good news: Since 1990, the overall number of undernourished people around the world has gone down—that means 209 million fewer undernourished people.
 
Solving World Undernourishment
 
Ultimately, solving world undernourishment comes with diminishing returns. The more progress you make, the more challenging the remaining work becomes.
 
As places like sub-Saharan Africa increase their production of food staples, they then need to focus on distributing it to the people who need it most. Many regions lack infrastructure such as roads and bridges that can accommodate trucks carrying food.
 
So, someone looking to alleviate world hunger doesn’t only need to focus on food, but on building roads and more secure buildings. Stable governments can help ensure fewer people go hungry. And when a country’s economy grows, almost everyone is better off. 
The Paradox of Undernourishment
Undernourishment is largely concentrated in the developing world—mostly Africa and southern Asia.
access
Noun

ability to use.

accommodate
Verb

to provide or satisfy.

agricultural development
Noun

modern farming methods that include mechanical, chemical, engineering and technological methods. Also called industrial agriculture.

alleviate
Verb

to relieve, unburden, or make easier.

calorie
Noun

unit of energy from food, equal to the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.

capacity
Noun

ability.

chronic
Adjective

recurring or happening frequently.

civil war
Noun

conflict between groups in the same country or nation.

comprehensive
Adjective

full, wide-ranging, or inclusive.

country
Noun

geographic territory with a distinct name, flag, population, boundaries, and government.

culprit
Noun

person responsible for an offense or fault.

data
Plural Noun

(singular: datum) information collected during a scientific study.

diminish
Verb

to become smaller or less important.

displacement
Noun

forced removal of something, often people or organisms, from their communities or original space.

disrupt
Verb

to interrupt.

Noun

the way something is spread out over an area.

durable
Adjective

strong and long-lasting.

earthquake
Noun

the sudden shaking of Earth's crust caused by the release of energy along fault lines or from volcanic activity.

economist
Noun
person who studies financial patterns and the creation, buying, and selling of goods and services
economy
Noun

system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

ensure
Verb

to guarantee.

fatigue
Noun

weariness or exhaustion.

Noun

material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

food aid
Noun

money or food given to regions faced with malnutrition and starvation.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Noun

United Nations agency responsible for improving food production in developing countries.

food staple
Noun

food that can be prepared, stored, and eaten throughout the year.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

hungry
Adjective

having a desire or need for food or nutrition.

hurricane
Noun

tropical storm with wind speeds of at least 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour. Hurricanes are the same thing as typhoons, but usually located in the Atlantic Ocean region.

income
Noun

wages, salary, or amount of money earned.

infrastructure
Noun

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

isolate
Verb

to set one thing or organism apart from others.

Noun

political unit made of people who share a common territory.

natural disaster
Noun

an event occurring naturally that has large-scale effects on the environment and people, such as a volcano, earthquake, or hurricane.

natural hazard
Noun

event in the physical environment that is destructive to human activity.

nourish
Verb

to supply, usually with food, or strengthen.

plague
Verb

to consistently bother, torment, or annoy.

political
Adjective

having to do with public policy, government, administration, or elected office.

population
Noun

total number of people or organisms in a particular area.

progress
Noun

forward movement.

ravage
Verb

to destroy or ruin.

reduce
Verb

to lower or lessen.

Noun

any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

relentless
Adjective

constant.

research
Noun

scientific observations and investigation into a subject, usually following the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.

rural
Adjective

having to do with country life, or areas with few residents.

secure
Verb

to guarantee, or make safe and certain.

sub-Saharan Africa
Noun

geographic region located south of the Sahara Desert in Africa.

surpass
Verb

to go beyond a set limit.

ultimate
Adjective

final or maximum.

undernourished
Adjective

hungry, or not having enough nutrients to function normally.

uniform
Adjective

exactly the same in some way.

unstable
Adjective

unsteady or likely to fall apart.

Western Hemisphere
Noun

area of the Earth west of the prime meridian and east of the International Date Line.