Three billion people. As of 2017, there are more than three billion people in the world who cannot afford a healthy diet. A healthy diet consists of both nutrient sufficient and energy sufficient foods. Globally, most people can afford an energy sufficient diet but lack essential nutrients. Consequently, millions suffer from malnourishment. Under the current circumstances of Covid-19, global food systems were put under strain. People panicked and began stocking up, disrupting normal supplies of food. The World Food Program projected that food insecurity, the limited access to food, could double by the end of 2020. Covid-19 has shed light on how broken the world’s global food system truly is, and to combat that, financing needs to be provided for a healthy diet. Despite concerns over abated globalization, communities should be supported by food hubs so as to increase food access and boost local economies.

An Unsustainable and Unhealthy Diet

Approximately 11 million deaths each year can be linked to what someone eats, or more accurately, what they don’t. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are inaccessible to many, and simply uneaten by others. Instead, sugary drinks, salt, and meat have become popularized. Besides the health impact of the world’s diets, the environment is hurting as well. Today, our world’s global food system is responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than the emission impact of heating, lighting, transportation, and air conditioning combined. But these sugary and meaty diets are often the only thing people can afford, even if the environment and people’s health cannot afford it. The cost of a healthy diet exceeds the international poverty line by far, making it impossible for most to afford nutritious foods. Ultimately, the cost of nutrient-rich foods needs to come down if food insecurity, fatal diseases, and climate change are to be eliminated. Beyond this though, people need access and desire to buy these foods.

Attaining Healthy Food

Food hubs are the middleman, often behind the scenes, that offer production, distribution, and marketing services to small farmers. They can be virtual or physical, small or large. The US today has roughly 300 food hubs, each one variating from the others in terms of operations and size. The National Food Hub Survey of 2018 found that most customers of these hubs come from within 100 miles and when shopping at food hubs, customers can find almost exclusively local products. Notably, the number one value of food hubs in improving human health– meaning that the exorbitant prices and inaccessibility of nutritious diets are directly addressed through these organizations. Indeed, local and in-season produce has been proven to retain more nutrients. Thus, the essential nutrients that are lacking from so many diets are supplied through food hubs. Simply providing access to healthy food can help fight off diet-related diseases and malnourishment. 

Supporting Suppliers and Generating Jobs 

Not only do hubs sustain farmers, but they also provide long-term jobs in communities. Almost half of the food hubs in the US supply from newly founded farms, thereby providing necessary funds to keep those farms running. This helped spur local economic growth, while also proving the health and environmental benefits of eating regionally. Another important value of most food hubs is their initiative to ensure producers and suppliers are paid fairly. Fair payment is essential to sustaining new businesses and once again, will help boost local economies. As for creating jobs, on average, food hubs employ 16 paid staffEven more, the jobs created are stable. The majority of food hubs reported breaking even in 2017 and have shown increased longevity. On the whole, using food hubs to connect suppliers and customers is a sustainable option– for both the farmers and economy. 

Will Globalization be Damaged?

The world’s population is growing, meaning we need more food. Some experts predict that more food needs to be produced globally in the next 50 years than that has been produced sum-total in the last 10,000 years. Predictions such as these, backed by the argument that localism cannot sustain this growth, have led many to doubt in eating local and therefore, doubt in food hubs. Defenders of this side emphasize the importance of globalization, which is the spread of products, information, and jobs across national cultures and borders. Globalization is undoubtedly a vital aspect of trade, and provides people with options. And if, for instance, people use localism to emphasize boundaries between non-local others, who are socially and culturally different, then that form of localism has no benefit besides exclusion. But food hubs don’t focus on limiting global trade or separating cultural groups. They focus on providing regional stability, growth, and nutrition. There also seems to be the underlying idea that localism completely excludes any products that aren’t from regional manufacturers. That is not the case. A diet consisting of local produce and imported goods and non-perishables will not harm globalization, but it will help people all around the world to obtain nutrients and lower the environmental impact of transportation.

How You Can Help

Supplying the world’s population with affordable, healthy, and environmentally friendly diets will depend on many changes to how food is priced and agriculture works. Developing more food hubs around the world will not fix all the food insecurity, malnutrition, and environmental damage that has been done. But doing so will help alleviate these problems. Governments around the world should help fund food hubs so as to lower the prices. We need to start investing in healthy, local food, and each and every person can make an effort to do so. Most grocery stores around the US offer “local finds” and heading towards that section first will not only provide more nutrition, but it can also cut down on the carbon emission of transportation and support local farmers. More than making an impact with your food choices, donations can go a long way as well. For those that can’t afford to buy local, or buy food at all, food banks and relief organizations provide a lifeline. Food for the Hungry and Action Against Hunger are two different charities that help provide healthy food around the world. Both have received 4 stars on Charity Navigator, ensuring their effectiveness. The app Eco Report Card also helps rate companies, including those manufacturing food. This, and other apps such as MyFarmer, can help all consumers strive towards sustainability. Ultimately, hunger and food insecurity will not end until the world comes together to make an impact. It starts with how each person strives for local, sustainable food options, ending with food hubs around the globe, and affordable nourishment.