6 things you need to know about... Zero Hunger

From the huge amount of food we waste to ingenious and sustainable ways to grow more, learn more about what the world is doing to eradicate hunger.

1. The hunger numbers don’t add up

When you look at the numbers, you can see why hunger shouldn’t be an issue. Around 815 million people worldwide are hungry – that’s about one in nine – and a quarter of children suffer from stunted growth caused by malnourishment. And yet we throw away one third of all the food we produce. Unsustainable agricultural practices and climate change are also destroying soil, water, forests and other ecosystems. It’s time to rethink how we produce and consume food. 

2. Moving with the population

The good news is that the number of hungry people is half what it was two decades ago thanks to economic growth and better productivity. But the world’s population is expected to rise by 2 billion in the next two decades, and we need a profound change in the global food and agriculture system to be able to cope with that staggering number.

3. Too good to waste

One way of achieving zero hunger is to be less wasteful with what we have. Take restaurants– they throw away 20% of all the food they purchase. In 2011, Marc Zornes co-authored a McKinsey Global Institute report that identified how little was being done globally about food waste. Two years later, he decided to do something, leaving McKinsey to found Winnow, a London-based technology company that makes software to track and analyse food waste in the hospitality industry. So far Winnow has helped restaurants reduce their food waste, save nearly $30 million, and reduce their carbon emissions. 

4. Turning farming sideways

Meanwhile in Newark, New Jersey, AeroFarms have just built the world’s largest indoor vertical farm. Housed in a repurposed steel mill, it looks like a sci-fi vision of the future, with scientists in lab coats tending to stacks upon stacks of vegetable beds. Seeds are placed on reusable cloth beds (made out of recycled plastic bottles) where they start to grow. Their roots are lightly misted with water, nutrients and oxygen, and they are lit by LED lights. With no soil, no sun, 95% less water and no pesticides, leafy greens are grown at record speed, with minimal waste. The farm has the capacity to make 2 million pounds of leafy greens a year and is 390 times as productive as field farming. 

5. Banking for the future

With up to 100,000 plant species at risk of extinction, the race is on to preserve Earth’s biological diversity. As of June 2018, seed banks around the world have collected 39,100 species and 2.25 billion seeds. When you think of seed banks, it’s easy to imagine an underground bunker somewhere in the Arctic north, designed to survive global catastrophes like nuclear war. There is one – the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, inside a sandstone mountain on the frozen Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. Closer to home (in suburban London), the Millennium SeedBank at Kew Gardens is on track to be 100 times as large as Svalbard. It currently houses seeds from all the UK’s native plants in a vast underground storage vault, making Britain the first country to preserve its entire botanical heritage.

6. The perfect tonic

Every year, supermarkets waste 166 million grapes. Loose grapes that fall off their bunches in transit or don’t fit the punnets, damaged grapes, oddly-shaped grapes, wrinkly grapes… you get the picture. In 2016, a fruit supplier got together with a craft spirits producer, and came up with a sustainable (and highly enjoyable) solution to the grape wastage. They’re pressing them, fermenting them, infusing them with juniper, coriander, liquorice root and bitter orange – and turning them into gin. Hyke gin, created by Foxhole Spirits, has just launched at 300 branches of Tesco. And with gin sales in the UK at a 50-year high, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.