A woman walks by a dead cow in Dong Boma, a Dinka village in South Sudan's Jonglei State.


For several months, the WCC and the Food For Life” campaign have been conducting research to monitor and understand the impact of the food crisis on people's lives. Through a series of interviews with individuals from all over the world, the results show that the global spike in food and energy prices, the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts, and extreme weather conditions have combined to increase the number of people going hungry. No geographical area is left out, however, the effects and response mechanisms vary greatly between the Global North and Global South, particularly in terms of access and affordability. Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean are the most severely affected areas. Moreover, we observe strong inequalities and intersectionality in relation to gender, age, ability, social status, ethnic minorities, and between urban areas and rural areas.

The voices on the ground have shown that young people and students are particularly affected by the current global food crisis in connection with the events mentioned above. When you are a young person or a student in a precarious situation, eating is a daily preoccupation subject to many difficulties. "Food is a matter of "I do as I can"... and not "as I feel like it.” A first difficulty, essential for young people in precarious situations, is the economic barrier. People have to arbitrate between different essential expenditure items and food often appears as an adjustment variable in budgets. This financial difficulty also has a direct impact on the possibility of accessing sufficient food, but also food of good quality and variety. Instead, priority is given to nutritious food. In addition to these barriers, there are material difficulties such as the cost of transport to obtain supplies, access to a place to cook or the cost of energy for cooking. The barrier of the cost of access to water is strongly described in poor urban areas or in rural areas. Thus, living in a precarious situation compromises the possibility of accessing sufficient healthy and balanced food. This has obvious implications for people's health, mentally and physically. Testimonies show that sometimes young people can put themselves in danger to feed themselves or to have resources. This can also lead to high levels of anxiety and stress, especially in relation to unfulfilled expectations of life because their precarious situation can be highly symbolic.

However, limiting the approach to access to food to objectives of quantity, quality, and nutrition, leaves in the shade an important part of the challenges of food, particularly related to its social role. Life in precariousness also undermines the essential dynamics generated by food, such as the construction of individual identity, family structure, the creation of social ties, and social and civic positioning. Among the tensions generated around access to food, several seem to come from the conditions of access to the aid that can be provided to these food insecure people. Access to aid can sometimes be a source of stigmatisation and a mark of exclusion. Therefore, food aid is most often granted on a short-term basis, as an emergency aid. This aid is necessary in the face of the distress encountered by people to feed themselves and their families. Nevertheless, too few food aid initiatives aim to help people regain their food autonomy or sovereignty. Emergency aid and the prejudices surrounding food for the poorest risk creating a vicious circle of poverty, survival, and exclusion, and keeping people in a state of dependency that hinders their participation in society.

We have seen an increase in food insecurity in the world for several years, even though progress has been made. This global food crisis is caused by multiple factors that include political decisions and austerity policies that accentuate deep systemic structural inequalities, conflict, climate change, and economic shocks. The transformation of the global food system could lead directly to progress in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. However, achieving food security, eliminating hunger and malnutrition, and achieving sustainable agricultural production, as envisaged by Sustainable Development Goal 2, "Zero Hunger,” depends largely on progress under Sustainable Development Goal 16, "Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions,” to promote peaceful, inclusive and sustainable societies. Preventing and overcoming conflict is therefore the necessary framework condition for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 and related Sustainable Development Goals, such as Sustainable Development Goal 1, "No Poverty,” Sustainable Development Goal 10, "Reduced Inequalities,” and Sustainable Development Goal 13, "Climate Action.” 

Today, the fight against food insecurity should be driven by comprehensive and reflective methods.  Eating is an act that might seem trivial and banal, but it is a cultural practice whose understanding is an ideal gateway to understanding the organisation of a society. Because food practices play the role of identity markers and occupy a central place in the processes of social differentiation, food is found in the construction of a common imagery perceived as a major element of our individual and collective identity. The importance of food practices in the construction of identity underlines the need to take an interest in all the modalities surrounding the act of eating. Food policies must be established within a framework of thought that brings together all the political, economic, and social dimensions of food. We have the duty and the capacity to fight against hunger and only peace, social justice, and a belief in a common ethic can lead us on this path.

About the author :

Sylvain Nedelec is a french student in international politics at the University of Geneva. He’s doing an internship at the World Council of Churches in the Food For Life campaign. His current research focuses on the impact of climate change, conflict and economic shocks on people's daily food security.


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.