Food for Thought


No one on the planet should go hungry. The world’s farmers actually grow more calories than the World Food Programme recommendation for a healthy diet. In most places, the challenge is access. (National Geographic News)

Read a version of this article on our site, explore undernourishment data from around the world with MapMaker Interactive, and check out our Food Education collection, providing resources for teaching about food and food issues.

Undernourishment is largely concentrated in the developing world—mostly Africa and southern Asia. Map by Jerome N. Cookson, National Geographic
Undernourishment is largely concentrated in the developing world—mostly Africa and southern Asia.
Map by Jerome N. Cookson, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • Read through our article on undernourishment. What is the difference between hunger and undernourishment?
    • Hunger is a physical condition marked by stomach pangs and general fatigue. People all over the world go hungry, even for just a few hours, when they don’t have enough to eat.
    • Undernourishment, which is a chronic physical condition, can lead someone to be underweight for his or her age, stunted in growth, and deficient in vitamins and minerals. Undernourishment often affects large communities and even entire countries where enough quality food isn’t available.



  • In the United States, the government has shifted language from hunger or undernourishment to levels of “food security.” What is food security, and what are some characteristics of households that have low food security? Use this article from the USDA for some help.
    • According to the USDA, “Food security means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” In 2013, 85.7 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year. The typical food-secure household spent 30 percent more for food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and composition.
    • Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line, households with children headed by single women or single men, and Black- and Hispanic-headed households. Food insecurity was more common in large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas and exurban areas around large cities.
    • Characteristics shared by many households experiencing food insecurity include:
      • worry that food would run out
      • food bought that did not last
      • inability to afford a balanced (healthy, nutritious) meal
      • cut or skipped meals
      • eating less than they felt they should


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