Covid-19 Food Crisis: Tracking International Hunger as Food Bank Need Surges

Contributors: Millie Munshi

Updated on August 31, 10:35 AM EDT

What You Need To Know

The world is hurtling toward an unprecedented hunger crisis. The pandemic is upending food supply chains, crippling economies and eroding consumer purchasing power.

In a worst-case scenario, about a tenth of the world’s population won’t have enough to eat. Some projections show that by the end of the year, more people will die each day from hunger than from Covid-19.

The impact will go beyond just hunger as millions more are also likely to experience other forms of food insecurity, including not being able to afford a healthy diet, which can lead to malnutrition and obesity.

Why It Matters

The crisis is happening at a time when the world has plenty of food. That juxtaposition underscores how hunger and malnutrition are at the core of some of the world’s deepest inequalities being exposed by the pandemic.

Government programs, food charities and aid organizations have mobilized across the globe, but the need far outstrips their reach. The UN’s World Food Programme alone needs a record $13 billion for the year to deliver food in 83 countries. At the start of the second half, the group faced a shortfall of $4.9 billion to meet the goal.

Food Access

There are increasing levels of food insecurity in places that used to have relative stability. In the U.S., more than a third of those relying on food banks now are doing so for the first time in their lives, according to Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization.

The crisis will disproportionately impact women. Women and girls make up 60% of the population facing chronic hunger across the world. The gender gap is even greater among people who are poorer, less educated, or unemployed, according to Care, a hunger relief and advocacy group.

Food inequalities are also exacerbated along racial lines. In the U.S., Black Americans are two-and-a half times as likely as their White counterparts to have low or very low access to enough food for an active and healthy life. For Latino Americans, the rate is double that of White people.


The Sept. 11 attacks inspired a department of homeland security. Should Covid-19 do the same for food security?