So what does it mean to be hungry?
That’s a question that occurred to us as we read some encouraging news: The world isn’t as hungry as it used to be.
A U.N. report has noted that 795 million people were hungry in the year 2014. That’s a mind-boggling number. But in fact it’s 200 million lower than the estimated 1 billion hungry people in 1990.
The improvement is especially impressive because the world population has gone up by around 2 billion since the ’90s.
And the rate of hunger is also declining. Only 12.9 percent of the population in developing regions are hungry today, compared to 23.3 percent a quarter century ago.
Here’s a look at what hunger is like — and why it’s declining.
The Hungry Person’s Diet
The world’s hungry people consume fewer than the 2,000 or so daily calories the average person needs to survive (the amount varies based on age, gender and energy expended).
There are two reasons for this calorie deficit, says Pedro Sanchez, director of Agriculture and Food Security Center at Columbia University. There’s acute hunger: When sudden conflicts and disasters like a drought leave people starving.
That accounts for less than 10 percent of the hungry population, according to the World Food Program.
The more prevalent type is chronic hunger, which happens mainly in rural areas and among the poorest of the poor.
People who are chronically hungry do eat. But their diet tends to consist of food like cereal, corn, cassava and rice — high in calories and carbohydrates but not much else.
Even then, these people eat so little that the carbs barely fill their stomach with the calories they need. And they don’t eat the vegetables, meat, fish and/or dairy products that provide ample protein, vitamin A, zinc, iron and iodine, says Pedro Sanchez, director of Agriculture and Food Security Center at Columbia University.