woman wearing face mask and gloves offers a portion of food

Though a lot of progress has been made to decrease poverty and increase food production for a growing population, the number of people suffering from hunger has grown steadily over the last five years. In 2020, more than 811 million people worldwide were hungry, up by 161 million [1].  By 2030, projections are that 656.8 million people will be hungry. This is 6% higher than the number of hungry people in 2015, the year 193 governments committed to zero hunger in the context of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

The current food systems that produce more than enough food for all in the world, still leave 9.9 percent of people globally hungry. The system is edging out the time-proven indigenous wisdom that has nourished both the planet and the people, with extractive industrial models that add profit and convenience for the privileged at the cost of workers, the lands, and the waters.

Food is essential for life and binds us together as families and communities, and sharing food is an expression of our love, a way we care for each other. But food is being reduced to a commodity, and the systems that serve it in the current form, are leading us to an existential crisis. Food production now takes up 40 percent of the earth's land surface[2]. Agriculture also makes use of 70 percent of all available water resources[3]. Human activity is primarily responsible for the decline by 60 percent of global vertebrate species—fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles over the last 40 years[4]. Agriculture and food production also contributes about one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions. Global warming attributable to human beings continued its relentless march, causing increased occurrences of high-impact events, including extreme heat, wildfires and floods, and record-breaking hurricane seasons, affecting millions of people. Despite the massive impact of food production on the earth, one-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted globally. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year[5].  In addition, increasing sedentary lifestyles and diets high in sugars, saturated and transfats, low-fiber foods and high-sugar drinks, and a high intake of fast food and ultra-processed foods contribute to non-communicable diseases and other health problems precipitating a global health crisis [6] and creating with it mass ecosystem destruction. All this is compounded by the threats to human health, food security and economic stability posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cultivating, fishing, buying food, cooking, and eating are actions that have deeply existential, political, social, economic, and spiritual implications. What we eat, what we drink, where we source it from, how we cultivate or rear livestock, and the policies that guide and govern our food systems, all have a profound influence on the environment, the society, and our own health. We are challenged to live with our eyes open, speak truth to power and walk gently on this earth.

The United Nations secretary-general's convening the Food Systems Summit on 23 September is aimed to empower people to leverage food systems as accelerators of progress to realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The summit and the intensive process leading up to it, has had multi-sectoral engagement, and has been significantly influenced by agribusiness corporations, and hence boycotted by the many global social movements such as La Via Campesina and the World Forum of Fisher Peoples and the Civil Society Mechanism of the Committee for Food Security. But several faith-based organizations, including WCC, and several community-based organizations did participate and contributed to the activities and dialogues. The faith communities engaged in the process presented an ‘Interfaith Reflection and statement’ at the UN Food Systems Summit.

An interactive webinar titled “Sustainable Food Systems to Overcome Hunger” has been organized for 8 October, (New York 09:00-11:00; Geneva, Johannesburg 15:00-17:00, Nairobi 16:00-18:00, New Delhi 18:30-20:30, Bangkok 20:00-22:00), providing feedback and analysis of the UN Food Systems Summit and the process leading to the summit from expert voices in the faith context and help discern key lessons from the process for food systems transformation. The webinar will have a substantial session for discussion and feedback from all participants to contribute to the process. In addition, discussants from the theological and youth perspectives will anchor the conversations, guiding us to move forward in a relevant manner.

Please register for the event via the following link:



[1] The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021

[2] Farming Claims Almost Half Earth's Land, New Maps Show National Geographic- 2005

[3] FAO. 2011. The state of the world's land and water resources for food and agriculture (SOLAW) – Managing systems at risk. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome and Earthscan, London.

[4] Ceballos. G, Ehrlich. P.R, Dirzo.R, (2017) Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) July 25, 2017 114 (30) E6089 E6096.

[5] FAO, Food Loss and Food Waste: 

[6] World Heart Federation- Global dietary changes threaten health

About the author :

Dr Manoj Kurian is the coordinator of the WCC-Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.

He is a Malaysian medical doctor, trained in Community Health and Health Systems Management. After working for seven years in mission hospitals in diverse rural regions in India, from 1999, he headed the health work at the WCC for 13 years. From 2012, for two years, he worked at the International AIDS Society as the senior manager, responsible for the policy and advocacy work.

He is an adjunct faculty at the College of Public Health, Kent State University, USA. Manoj is married and has two children.


The impressions expressed in the blog posts are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.