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World Food Day: the worldwide relationship between income and food

Posted on 16 October 2014 .
Tags: diet, food, health, inequality, nutrition, World Food Day

Today is World Food Day. This year’s focus is on family farmers; a group crucial in resolving world hunger, but at risk of poor nutrition because of low earnings. Income doesn’t only have a bearing on nutritional intake in developing countries; we see a similar relationship in the UK.

Recent findings from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) shows that lower income households are less likely to be getting their ‘5-a day’ and vital nutrients than higher income households. The difference in diet also means that those from lower income homes are more likely to suffer from illnesses and deficiencies. In NDNS, anaemia and vitamin A deficiency was most common in women from low income homes where the average intake of minerals from food sources were below recommendations. Similar trends are seen amongst women from low income backgrounds in Africa and South East Asia.

So why, despite differences in economic and lifestyle opportunities, do similar patterns of nutritional inequalities exist between families in the developing and developed world? Possible explanations include (low) levels of education, family size and gender gap. These factors are present in both the developed and developing world which means that some groups are more likely to experience food poverty in comparison to others. For instance, those with higher levels of education are more likely to earn a higher income and able to purchase the necessary nutrition and dietary recommendations. This idea can be observed both within the developed and developing nations.

World Food Day not only highlights the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty, but it also recognises the harsh reality of inequality, both nationally and globally. Campaigns such as Food4thought, Change4life and Breakfast Clubs in primary schools have been introduced to reduce food poverty and increase nutritional intake.

But is this enough? Future prevalence data collected from sources like the NDNS may help us to shed light on the impact of initiatives like this. And, what about the rest of the world? Is World Food Day the only initiative which aims to tackle hunger and food poverty in the developing world? Or can efforts be made to implement similar initiatives to those introduced in the UK?

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