So What's for Dinner?

Obesity and Hunger -How is it that we live in a world that has nearly one billion people who are undernourished and an equal number who are overweight or obese?

Never before has the world been able to over supply people with cheap, mass-produced foods. This has led to a global epidemic of 2 billion people overweight or obese. While at the same time we have nearly a billion people still going hungry in the world. This is seriously effecting our global wellbeing. Obesity, causes expensive health problems like heart disease and diabetes. While food scarcity, causes high food prices, malnutrition, hunger and social instability (war). On top of this is the growing environmental impact of our mass food production which is limiting future options. With global population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, we urgently need to create a sustainable food future. Doing this will take increased production of nutrient rich food on less land, using less water—and methods to distribute food to people in a fair manner. You can help, by thinking about what you eat, is it making you healthy? How is your food produced and where has it come from, is it helping the world stay healthy? We all need to contribute if we are going to rebalance our food systems globally.


• 1 in 4 of the world’s children are stunted — an indicator of chronic malnutrition UNICEF

• Every 3.6 seconds one person dies of starvation. Usually it is a child under the age of 5. UNICEF

• In 1980 there were 857 million people on the planet who were either overweight or obese. 33 years later, there are 2.1 billion. Lancet

• Ireland is set to become the most obese country in Europe, according to the figures from World Health Organisation WHO

Food Poverty - Is the inability to afford, or to have access to, food to make up a healthy diet. It is about the quality of food as well as quantity.


• 1 in 4 - 9 years olds 1 in 5 - 12 to 17 year olds are overweight or obese in Ireland

• 21% of school-aged children report going to school or bed

• 1 in 10 people in Ireland are living in food poverty. Central Statistics Office

• When children are chronically malnourished, or ‘stunted’, it can affect their future income, condemning them to a life of poverty and hunger. WFP

Food poverty is simply people not having access to correct nutritious foods. They can’t afford them or just don’t have time to prepare a proper meal. This doesn’t mean people are starving; in fact, people suffering food poverty in Ireland are often overweight! And that’s because the least nutritious foods, filled with fat, salt, white flour and sugar are the cheapest and quickest foods to get and to eat. If a parent goes to the supermarket to buy dinner and is on a tight budget: what will they be more likely to buy, a kilo of pasta and some sauce or maybe a pre-made pizza for €2 or fresh fruits and vegetables and meat costing €10? The first option is cheap and fast, the second is costly and takes a good bit more time to prepare. Many people find themselves too exhausted to cook nourishing meals at the end of a long work day. In many lower income communities, fast food outlets are more readily available to families, while the farmers’ markets and restaurants tend to be found in higher income areas. We must begin to ensure that people can make and afford better food choices, by providing healthier local alternatives and food education. These cheap, low quality foods will end up costing the world far more in healthcare costs and environmental destruction!

Food Choices- In order to eradicate world hunger and poverty we need to become aware of the enormous effect of our food choices have on the ability to feed the planet sustainably.


• In Central America, 40% of all the rainforests have been cleared or burned down in the last 40 years, mostly for cattle pasture to feed the export market.

• Recent world harvests, if equitably distributed with no diversion of grain to feeding livestock, could provide a vegetarian diet to 6 billion people, whereas a meat-rich diet like that of people in the wealthier nations could support only 2.6 billion.

• Ireland is the fifth largest beef exporter in the world. 90% of beef produced in Ireland is exported. 1.1 million beef suckler cow herd kept on just under 80,000 farms. Bord Bia

With a skyrocketing population, how do we produce enough food to provide a nutritious diet for everyone, while at the same time, making sure the planet stays healthy and can provide for future generations? To start, we all need to be aware of what we are choosing to eat and the planetary resources it takes to produce it. Worldwide, an estimated 2 billion people live primarily on a meat-based diet. Meat production uses a lot more land, water and energy than vegetables do. This creates a shortage of resources for crops that feed people instead of animals, resulting in higher food prices for the 4 billion people who live on a plant-based diet. It’s not just about choosing to eat plants more than meat, we also need to think about where our food comes from. Was it flown in from New Zealand or shipped from Argentina? buying locally produced, seasonal foods is another choice that will help rebalance our food system and make it more sustainable. Choosing to eat more of these foods is not only better for the environment but you will buy it at a price that better reflects the economy it was produced in. What did you choose to eat for your last meal?

Food Waste- We produce enough food in the world to ensure all people can have a nutritious diet. Unfortunately 1 out of every 4 calories never gets eaten.


• More than 6 billion pounds of fruits and vegetables go unharvested or unsold each year because it is misshapen The Food & Agriculture Org

• 1/3 of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted, converted to calories, this means that about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten.

• The vast amount of food going to landfills makes a significant contribution to global warming.

How often do you throw out food? Mis-judge your hunger and take too much, only to empty it in the bin? What about all the aisles of food in supermarkets or convenience stores? Where does it go when it’s passed its sell-by date? Is it sustainable for us to have so much food choice while in other places in the world people live day to day unsure whether they and their family will have enough to eat? Do you think one effects the other? Has your parent ever said, “Eat up, people are starving!“ Lets follow the journey of a green bean to your plate. Start by picturing the number of packets you have to choose from on the supermarket shelf. Now think of the many larger boxes of those same packets loaded tight in the truck that delivered it. Those 1000s of boxes were more than likely airfreighted on a plane from Kenya where they were sold by a farmer for €0.37 cents a kilo. How much of that money do you think the person who picked the beans received? Who has the ability to pay more in Kenya? The bean picker or the supermarket? Who is better able to afford the bean, your family or the bean picker? Have you eaten all your beans? Or did some go in the bin? We produce enough food to feed ev

Food Justice- Food production is in the control of a handful of corporations, this has an impact on our choices, our ability to pay for our food and how it impacts on the environment.


• Global food prices will more than double within 20 years as a new age of crisis forces the collapse of our broken global food system Oxfam

• The modern supermarket stocks, on average, 47,000 products, most of which are being produced by only a handful of food companies. Food Inc.

• Farming animals accounts for almost a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions and the UN expects meat demand to double by 2050. Food & Agriculture Org

• 1/3 of agricultural land goes to produce animal feed.

Control of the food industry extends practically "from field to fork." Who owns the food we eat? Would it surprise you to learn that 10 food companies own the vast majority of the food you buy. They are, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Associated British Foods, Mondēlez (formerly Kraft Foods), Mars, PepsiCo, Danone, Unilever, CocaCola and Nestle. Who sells it to you? It’s likely to be one of the top 15 food retailers in the world (Tesco, Lidl or Aldi). Did you know even the seeds that are planted in the ground are owned by mostly 6 companies. Water is another key battle that is being waged with corporations. Currently, 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water. Agriculture uses 70% of the world’s accessible freshwater. As the global population grows and we continue to use water unsustainably, it is becoming a scarce commodity. In ten years it is estimated that 2/3 of the population may face water shortages. Rivers and even seas are drying up from demand. Companies like Nestlé, Vivendi and Coca-Cola have moved in to gain control of public water sources. What does all this mean? For one, it means that people have very little say in what is essential for their survival, food and water. Unless governments start to conserve and regain control we risk being at the mercy of corporations for our very survival.

 Recent Posts  

UNICEF Ireland wants to support you to start a global movement for change beginning in our own communities. Stay connected online with other activists like you. 


If you would like more information, getting involved or posting a blog about your activism, please email us at

Thanks to our Supporters

Irish Aid for supporting youth activism within UNICEF Ireland.