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As if the estimate that 1 billion people in the world are hungry wasn't hard enough to fathom, a new survey developed by researchers in the United States, Colombia and Brazil suggests the number could actually be twice that.

The new survey, which requires people to report on their food consumption over a period of three months, is a departure from the facts and figures-based method the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization used to come up with the 1 billion figure. The FAO made their estimate by comparing how much food is available, divided by the population. If the number of calories available for each person is too low, those numbers were used to estimate how many people are food insecure.

The new survey, called ELCSA (for Escala Latinoamericana y Caribena de Seguridad Alimentaria), takes a more personal approach. Based on the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module used by the Department of Agriculture, ELCSA yields more nuanced information. Results show where in a country hunger is most pernicious, which groups are hungry at greater rates and whose diets are adequate in calories but not nutrients.

Initial results from surveys conducted in Brazil and Colombia suggest hunger is a much larger issue than we knew. The survey is already being adopted in other Central and South American countries.


Austin Bailey

Austin Bailey is a writer and editor for Heifer's World Ark magazine.