• More than 690 million people currently suffer from hunger, with population growth and unsustainable agriculture systems threatening even more.
  • Young people are taking the lead to end world hunger and save our planet.

The global population is predicted to surpass 10 billion by 2050. As of this year, the United Nations estimates that 690 million people suffer from hunger. After decades of decline, that number started to rise again in 2015, with an additional 60 million people enduring undernourishment.

Population growth and unsustainable agricultural systems could dangerously collide – threatening disaster if no action is taken.

A growing emergency

The catastrophic consequences of deforestation for crop cultivation and livestock, the ramifications of mass monoculture farming, and the destruction of diverse habitats for the production of food are contributing to the extinction of species around the world and fuelling the climate emergency. This unintended consequence of food systems is spawning a snowballing effect of environmental devastation whereby the loss of habitats and wildlife are unbalancing delicate ecologies and wiping out further life and sources of food.

A vacuum of leadership on this issue from policymakers and the focus of businesses on shareholder primacy have underwritten an unsustainable supply of food for countries across the globe. But the horrors of the global food emergency are not shared equally Hunger and the impacts of climate change are set to have far worse consequences for the poorest nations, and the poorest communities within them.

There is now limited time left before turning back on this trajectory becomes an impossibility. The clock is ticking.

2019 One Young World Global Summit in London
2019 One Young World Global Summit in London
Image: Image: One Young World

Young people are taking the lead

Bold transformation is required to dramatically rethink how we feed people across the planet while meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2: to eradicate hunger by 2030.

There is genuine hope to be found in our young people. This generation now faces the daunting responsibility of rethinking how we supply societies with the food they need to eat, as well as transforming supply chains and modes of production into a force for good.

Young people are already the most engaged and environmentally conscious among us and have the power to enact the change this planet desperately demands. There are countless examples of young people showcasing the behavioural amendments and extraordinary technological innovations within food systems that can provide the answers and unlock meaningful change.

Take Taylor Quinn, who was recently awarded funding and mentorship through the Lead2030 programme at One Young World, the not-for-profit organisation that I co-founded to connect and promote young leaders. Lead2030 offers a prize fund for young leaders making an impact for the SDGs, from ending extreme poverty to protecting our oceans. Quinn, who founded Tailored Food in Canada in 2019, was recognised for his pioneering work to address challenges related to food systems and supporting the SDG2.

Tailored is a lean social enterprise consultancy dedicated to building holistic food systems in countries most affected by malnutrition such as Liberia, China, the US, and Congo. The organization builds coalitions of local entrepreneurs, farmers and multilateral development institutions to bring food products to people living in poverty. Its mission is to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 through nutritious, delicious food that families can find and purchase in their local markets.

The power of innovation

The major challenge of ending world hunger and improving our relationship with the planet is a humanitarian issue that has major ramifications for societies across the globe. Scalable local innovations from the world’s young leaders, like Quinn, will be critical in both tackling hunger and providing food for everyone and ensuring that the food we eat is not destroying the environment at the same time.

In radically rethinking our food systems, innovation cannot exist in silo. The role for leaders is to galvanise the collective vision – bring together governments, the private sector, civil society, international organisations alongside farmer leaders, financiers, experts, entrepreneurs and youth to initiate and accelerate progress.

Young leaders offer fresh hope that through technological advance, dedicated transformation and collective action, food can become a force for good. The prize for righting our wrongs is not only zero hunger and reducing the impacts of climate change but also a new path forwards that guarantees food safety and security in tandem with the predicted population growth.