The cost of malnutrition? $500 per person, says the United Nations - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 5 June 2013

Malnutrition could be costing the world as much as $3.5 trillion a year.

The cost of malnutrition? $500 per person, says the United Nations

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 5 June 2013

Malnutrition could be costing the world as much as $3.5 trillion a year.

This is one of the key findings of a new report by the UN, The State of Food and Agriculture 2013 , which estimates that 12.5 per cent of the world’s population – 868 million people – are undernourished.

The consequences for health can be appalling. For example, the research by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the growth of 26 per cent of the world’s children has been stunted as a result of not having enough to eat.

Malnutrition costs the equivalent of $500 per person ($3.5 trillion in total) in lost economic productivity and providing healthcare. Good nutrition is the “foundation” of human health and well-being and boosts economic productivity, the report said. Therefore, less food means more poverty.

FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva this week called for action. Although progress has been made in recent years, he said, there was still “a long way to go”. “FAO’s message is that we must strive for nothing less than the eradication of hunger and malnutrition,” he added.

So what should be done? To tackle this issue, “interventions” need to be made in food production, public health and education, according to da Silva.

Research into how to improve food production should continue, with more attention paid to nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables and how to create more sustainable methods of food production. Any improvement to food supply chains would help to lower prices, increase choice and reduce losses.

The FAO report calls for cuts to food losses and waste, which currently amount to one-third of the food produced for human consumption every year. In essence, rich consumers in the developing world need to throw away less food.

Tackling this could help to make food more widely available and more affordable, as well as reduce pressure on land and other resources. And more food for hungry people could even lead to better economies.

Questions for discussion or further research:

  • What is the difference between 'hunger' and 'malnutrition'? Why might different strategies be needed to tackle each of these problems?
  • Who do you think should be responsible for picking up the bill for problems associated with hunger and malnutrition? Justify your answer.
  • How could we raise awareness within our school and community about the problem of world hunger?
  • What can individual people do at home to reduce the amount of food we waste as a nation?

Resources for you

Food and hunger

  • These cross-curricular activities help your pupils understand why so many people in the world are hungry and what can be done about it.

Availability of food

  • An assembly on world hunger with supporting classroom activities to help students think about the need for food and fair access to it.

Hunger in a world of plenty

  • Explore the importance of food in a world that has a population of seven billion people with a lesson from TES partner Christian Aid.

Healthy Eating Week (3 – 7 June)

  • Take at look at TES’ selection of lessons and activities to promote cooking, healthy diets and to improve understanding of where food comes from.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week

On this day 100 years ago, Emily Wilding Davison stepped out in front of King George V’s horse during the Epsom Derby, one of England’s most celebrated horse races, and became a martyr for the cause of women’s rights.

Doctor Who's titular character may negotiate intergalactic wars and interspecies friendships, one thing still remains beyond the limits of Time Lord possibility: gender equality.

The scientific riddle behind how the turtle came to have its shell finally might have been solved by a group of American scientists.

60 years on, a host of events are taking place to mark the anniversary of the intrepid climbers who made history by being the first to reach the 29,028ft (8,848m) summit of Mount Everest.

In the news archive index